Written on: December 28, 2018
This is a feast that would have been dear to the heart of our foundress, St.Marguerite d’Youville, who was a wife and mother. The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart have always cared for families, whether as an extension of the child in a classroom, in sacramental preparation, through sickness, death, addiction or the myriad problems families can face. Today, Sister Jean Liston shares her thoughts on families and family life, and what holds them together despite all obstacles: Love.
“It is love that moves the sun and other stars,” so says Dante.
The theme of love permeates the scripture readings for the Feast of the Holy Family. Saint Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:12-17 that we must “strengthen compassion, kindness, humility, patience and forgiveness” in order to radiate the love God calls us to share with others.
The Gospel for this feast, Luke 2:41-52 recounts the Holy Family’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It was their love for Jewish traditions and their desire to celebrate the Feast of Passover that impelled them to join others for this occasion.
At the conclusion of the Passover celebration, unbeknownst to his parents, Jesus remained in Jerusalem to be in the presence of scholars in the Temple. It was His love for His Father and the desire to do His Father’s will that prompted Jesus to share His own insights with Temple officials. All who heard Jesus speak were amazed.
Following the heart-rending location of their son and the conclusion of the pilgrimage, the family returned to their quiet life in Nazareth. Jesus worked with Joseph as they completed various construction tasks locally and perhaps in the city of Sepphoris some three and a half miles from Nazareth. Jesus also assisted His mother with family needs as he continued to advance in ‘wisdom, age, and grace.’
What are the challenges we face as we attempt to internalize the meaning of these scripture passages?
Over the years the ideal picture of family life has changed dramatically. There is no such thing as a typical family today. That was not always true. According to a 2018 report by Penn State (Penn Live),
“fifty years ago, 73 percent of children lived in a household with two parents who were both in their first marriage. Today, however, families come in many forms. Just 46 percent of children today live in the type of family household that was typical in the 1970’s. The rest live in single-parent households, or with parents who are living together but not married. Some live with two parents who have previously been married and bring with them children from those prior relationships.”
In 1921, Pope Benedict XV instituted the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family to emphasize the beauty of family life. Today, however, ninety-seven years later, the National Center for Children in Poverty notes the number of struggling families continues to increase. In fact, 40 percent of children (in 2016) lived on the brink of poverty.
Yet, even today, the Church continues to present the Holy Family to us as a model for family life. The model presented is something to which all can aspire. Indeed, love is the ultimate answer. For with God’s love and grace all things are possible. For
“It is love that moves the sun and other stars!”