Feast of the Holy Family – December 27, 2020 

It’s certainly not by accident that in the midst of a season that finds many of us focusing upon our families, the Church offers for our consideration today this wonderful feast of the Holy Family – Joseph, Mary and the newborn Christ child.

No doubt, this celebration speaks quite differently to each of us.  Some of us see ourselves as richly blessed with loyal and attentive family members.  …  Others of us struggle with difficulties in our families born from challenges that have evolved over the years.  …  Some of us are experiencing joy this Christmas season as we celebrate new members, while others of us are faced with sadness as we confront separation and loss.  …  And every one of us has been impacted significantly this year because of the pandemic that has enveloped our world with inconvenience, uncertainty, fear, and, in some instances, sickness and death.

This year, more than most, reminds us that no family is immune from the various and sometimes-harsh realities of life – no matter what we might imagine or conclude as we look at others from the outside.  And it is because of this deeply human reality that touches every life in this cathedral today that we are given the model of the Holy Family to reflect upon today.  …  Yes – Joseph, Mary and Jesus provide us with a powerful example of how best to live our lives within our particular families.  …  But they also remind us – more than we might imagine – of how to find hope in the midst of family challenges and burdens.

In today’s Gospel that recalls the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, we find four individuals whose lives were changed by their encounter with the child Jesus:  the elderly and faithful Simeon, the wise old prophetess Anna, and a young couple, Mary and Joseph, who in faithful obedience offer their child to the Lord.  While each of these four individuals have much to say to us, I’d suggest that we focus our attention for just a moment on the figure of Saint Joseph.  Joseph is often over shadowed by Mary and Jesus in the gospel stories.  Yet, while we don’t know much about him, we’re told in the gospels that he was a “righteous man” who faced an uncertain and challenging situation and world with hope.

Joseph was compassionate and caring.  When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been engaged, he planned to divorce Mary according to the law.  But Joseph was also a man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him, even without knowing the outcome.  So when an angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the truth about the child Mary was carrying, Joseph immediately, without question, took Mary as his wife.            Joseph revealed in his humanity the unique role of fathers to proclaim God’s truth by word and deed.  He protected and provided for Jesus and Mary.  He named Jesus, taught him how to pray, how to work, how to be a man.  Joseph’s life teaches us that a family is not built on power and possessions but goodness; not on riches and wealth, but on faith, fidelity, and selfless love.  In short, Joseph reminds us that the true treasures which we all seek in life can be found in every family if we look carefully enough – even our own!

Pope Francis put it best in words that he shared earlier this year just before Easter during what we all erroneously believed was the peak of the pandemic.  “You are calling us, Lord, to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing.  It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.    It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.  …  How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility.  How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer?  How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all.  Prayer and quiet service:  These are our victorious weapons.”

My friends, in the midst of this most unusual Christmas season, may we have the wisdom and courage to embrace the profound lessons of hope that emerge from these difficult days.  May we come to appreciate the things that matter most in our lives.  In so doing, may we recognize the great gifts of God that can abound in our families if we are wise enough to accept them:  gifts rooted in faith that have the power to transform broken and imperfect families in families that are filled with forgiveness, understanding, unconditional love, welcome, acceptance and faith.