All of us need… to contemplate ever anew the silence and love of the Holy Family, the model of all Christian family life. Here, in the example of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, we come to appreciate even more fully the sacredness of the family, which in God’s plan is based on the lifelong fidelity of a man and a woman consecrated by the marriage covenant and accepting of God’s gift of new life.

How much the men and women of our time need to re-appropriate this fundamental truth, which stands at the foundation of society, and how important is the witness of married couples for the formation of sound consciences and the building of a civilization of love!

In the book of Sirach (3:3-7, 14-17), the word of God presents the family as the first school of wisdom, a school which trains its members in the practice of those virtues which make for authentic happiness and lasting fulfilment.

In God’s plan for the family, the love of husband and wife bears fruit in new life, and finds daily expression in the loving efforts of parents to ensure an integral human and spiritual formation for their children.

In the family each person, whether the smallest child or the oldest relative, is valued for himself or herself, and not seen simply as a means to some other end.

Here we begin to glimpse something of the essential role of the family as the first building-block of a well-ordered and welcoming society.

We also come to appreciate, within the wider community, the duty of the State

  • to support families in their mission of education,
  • to protect the institution of the family and its inherent rights, and
  • to ensure that all families can live and flourish in conditions of dignity.

 

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Colossians, speaks instinctively of the family when he wishes to illustrate the virtues which build up the ‘one body’ which is the Church. As ‘God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved’, we are called to live in harmony and peace with one another, showing above all forbearance and forgiveness, with love as the highest bond of perfection (cf. Col 3:12-14).

Just as in the marriage covenant, the love of man and woman is raised by grace to become a sharing in, and an expression of, the love of Christ and the Church (cf. Eph 5:32), so too the family, grounded in that love, is called to be a ‘domestic church’, a place of faith, of prayer and of loving concern for the true and enduring good of each of its members.

As we reflect on these realities …our thoughts naturally turn to Mary, ‘full of grace’, the mother of the Holy Family and our Mother. Nazareth reminds us of our need to acknowledge and respect the God-given dignity and proper role of women, as well as their particular charisms and talents.

Whether as mothers in families or as a vital presence in the work force and the institutions of society, or in the particular vocation of following our Lord by the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, women have an indispensable role in creating that ‘human ecology’ (cf. Centesimus Annus, 39) which our world…so urgently needs: a milieu in which children learn

  • to love and to cherish others,
  • to be honest and respectful to all,
  • to practice the virtues of mercy and forgiveness.

 

Here too, we think of Saint Joseph, the just man whom God wished to place over his household. From Joseph’s strong and fatherly example Jesus learned the virtues of a

  • manly piety,
  • fidelity to one’s word,
  • integrity and
  • hard work.

 

In the carpenter of Nazareth he saw how authority placed at the service of love is infinitely more fruitful than the power which seeks to dominate. How much our world needs the example, guidance and quiet strength of men like Joseph.

Finally, in contemplating the Holy Family of Nazareth, we turn to the child Jesus, who in the home of Mary and Joseph grew in wisdom and understanding, until the day he began his public ministry.

Here I would simply like to leave a particular thought with the young people. The Second Vatican Council teaches that children have a special role to play in the growth of their parents in holiness (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 48). I urge you to reflect on this, and to let the example of Jesus guide you, not only in showing respect for your parents, but also helping them to discover more fully the love which gives our lives their deepest meaning.

In the Holy Family of Nazareth, it was Jesus who taught Mary and Joseph something of the greatness of the love of God his heavenly Father, the ultimate source of all love, the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name (cf. Eph 3:14-15).

‘Let it be done to me according to your word’ (Lk 1:38). May our Lady of the Annunciation, who courageously opened her heart to God’s mysterious plan, and became the Mother of all believers, guide and sustain us by her prayers.

May she obtain for us and our families the grace to open our ears to that word of the Lord which has the power to build us up (cf. Acts 20:32), to inspire us to be courageous.

 

Adapted from Pope Benedict XVI Homily, Mount of Precipice – Nazareth Thursday, 14 May 2009

This article can be found in Mirror 0615.