13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt have I called my son.’ 1 (Mt 2:13-15)

 

The Scriptures seldom speak of Saint Joseph, but when they do, we often find him resting, as an angel reveals God’s will to him in his dreams. I would like to rest in the Lord with all of you. I need to rest in the Lord with families, and to remember my own family: my father, my mother, my grandfather, my grandmother… Today I am resting with you, and together with you I would like to reflect on the gift of the family.

First, however, let me say something about dreams. I am very fond of dreams in families. For nine months every mother and father dream about their baby. They dream about what kind of child he or she will be… You can’t have a family without dreams. Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies.

So I ask you each evening, when you make your examination of conscience, to also ask yourselves today…

  • Did I dream about my children’s future?
  • Did I dream about the love of my husband, my wife?
  • Did I dream about my parents and grandparents who have gone before me?

 

Dreaming is very important. Especially dreaming in families. Do not lose the ability to dream.

How many difficulties in married life are resolved when we leave room for dreaming, when we stop for a moment to think of our spouse, and we dream about the goodness present in the good things all around us. So it is very important to reclaim love by what we do each day. Do not ever stop being newlyweds!

Joseph’s rest revealed God’s will to him. In this moment of rest in the Lord, as we pause from our many daily obligations and activities, God is also speaking to us. He speaks to us

  • in the reading (of scripture),
  • in our prayer and witness, and
  • in the quiet of our hearts.

 

Let us reflect on what the Lord is saying to us, especially in Matthew 2:13-15. There are three aspects of this passage which I would ask you to consider:

  • First, resting in the Lord. 
  • Second, rising with Jesus and Mary. 
  • Third, being a prophetic voice.

 

Resting in the Lord. Rest is so necessary for the health of our minds and bodies, and is often so difficult to achieve due to the many demands placed on us. But rest is also essential for our spiritual health, so that we can hear God’s voice and understand what He asks of us.

Joseph was chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. As Christians, you too are called, like Joseph, to make a home for Jesus. To make a home for Jesus. You make a home for him

  • in your hearts,
  • in your families,
  • in your parishes and
  • in your communities.

 

To hear and accept God’s call, to make a home for Jesus, you must be able to rest in the Lord. You must make time each day to rest in the Lord, to pray.

To pray is to rest in the Lord. But you may say to me: Holy Father, I know that; I want to pray, but there is so much work to do. I must care for my children; I have chores in the home; I am too tired even to sleep well. I know. This may be true, but if we do not pray, we will not know the most important thing of all: God’s will for us. And for all our activity, our busy-ness without prayer will accomplish very little.

Resting in prayer is especially important for families. It is in the family that we first learn how to pray. Don’t forget: the family that prays together stays together! Because it is in the family that we come:

  • to know God,
  • to grow into men and women of faith,
  • to see ourselves as members of God’s greater family, the Church.

 

It is in the family that we learn how: 

  • to love,
  • to forgive,
  • to be generous and open, not closed and selfish.

 

It is in the family that we learn:

  • to move beyond our own needs,
  • to encounter others and share our lives with them.

 

That is why it is so important to pray as a family. That is why families are so important in God’s plan for the Church. To rest in the Lord is to pray. To pray together as a family.

I would also like to tell you something very personal. I have great love for Saint Joseph, because he is a man of silence and strength. On my table I have an image of Saint Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church. Yes. We know that he can do that. So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath Saint Joseph, so that he can dream about it. In other words I tell him: pray for this problem!

Next, rising with Jesus and Mary. Those precious moments of repose, of resting with the Lord in prayer, are moments we might wish to prolong. But like Saint Joseph, once we have heard God’s voice, we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act (cf. Rom 13:11). In our families, we have to get up and act! Faith does not remove us from the world, but draws us more deeply into it. This is very important. We have to be deeply engaged with the world, but with the power of prayer. Each of us, in fact, has a special role in preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom in our world.

Just as the gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to Saint Joseph, so the gift of the family and its place in God’s plan is entrusted to us.

The gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to Saint Joseph so that he could care for it. Each of you, each of us – for I too am part of a family – is charged with caring for God’s plan. 

The angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph the dangers which threatened Jesus and Mary, forcing them to flee to Egypt and then to settle in Nazareth. So too, in our time, God calls upon us to recognise the dangers threatening our own families and to protect them from harm.

Let us be on guard against colonisation by new ideologies. There are forms of ideological colonisation which are out to destroy the family. They are not born of dreams, of prayers, of closeness to God or the mission which God gave us; they come from without, and for that reason I am saying that they are forms of colonisation.

Let’s not lose the freedom of the mission which God has given us, the mission of the family. Just as our peoples, at a certain moment of their history, were mature enough to say ‘no’ to all forms of political colonisation, so too in our families we need to be very wise, very shrewd, very strong, in order to say ‘no’ to all attempts at an ideological colonisation of our families.

We need to ask Saint Joseph, the friend of the angel, to send us the inspiration to know when we can say ‘yes’ and when we have to say ‘no’.

The pressures on family life today are many. In the Philippines, countless families are still suffering from the effects of natural disasters. The economic situation has caused families to be separated by migration and the search for employment, and financial problems strain many households.

While all too many people live in dire poverty, others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality. These are forms of ideological colonisation. The family is also threatened

  • by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage,
  • by relativism,
  • by the culture of the ephemeral,
  • by a lack of openness to life.

 

I think of Blessed Paul VI. At a time when the problem of population growth was being raised, he had the courage to defend openness to life in families. He knew the difficulties that are there in every family, and so in his Encyclical, Humanae Vitae he was very merciful towards particular cases, and he asked confessors to be very merciful and understanding in dealing with particular cases.

But he also had a broader vision: he looked at the peoples of the earth and he saw this threat of families being destroyed for lack of children. Paul VI was courageous; he was a good pastor and he warned his flock of the wolves who were coming.

Our world needs good and strong families to overcome these threats. Our world needs holy and loving families to protect the beauty and truth of the family in God’s plan and to be a support and example for other families. Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself.

The future of humanity, as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85). The future passes through the family. So protect your families!

Protect your families! See in them your greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments.

Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them. Instead,

  • Be living examples of love, forgiveness and care.
  • Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death.

 

What a gift this would be to society, if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation. So rise with Jesus and Mary, and set out on the path the Lord traces for each of you.

Finally, Matthew 2:15 reminds us of our Christian duty to be prophetic voices in the midst of our communities. Joseph listened to the angel of the Lord and responded to God’s call to care for Jesus and Mary. In this way he played his part in God’s plan, and became a blessing not only for the Holy Family, but a blessing for all of humanity.

With Mary, Joseph served as a model for the boy Jesus as he grew in wisdom, age and grace (cf. Lk 2:52).

When families bring children into the world, train them in faith and sound values, and teach them to contribute to society, they become a blessing in our world. Families can become a blessing for all of humanity.

God’s love becomes present and active by the way we love and, by the good works we do we extend Christ’s kingdom in this world. And in doing this, we prove faithful to the prophetic mission which we have received in baptism.

I would ask you, as families, to be especially mindful of our call to be missionary disciples of Jesus. This means being ready to go beyond your homes and to care for our brothers and sisters who are most in need.

I ask you especially to show concern for those who do not have a family of their own, in particular those who are elderly and children without parents. Never let them feel isolated, alone and abandoned, but help them to know that God has not forgotten them.

Today I was very moved when, after Mass, I visited a home for children without families. How many people work in the Church to make that home a family. This is what it means, in a prophetic sense, to build a family.

You may be poor yourselves in material ways, but you have an abundance of gifts to offer when you offer Christ and the community of his Church. Do not hide your faith, do not hide Jesus, but carry Him into the world and offer the witness of your family life.

Dear friends in Christ, know that I pray for you always. I pray for families. I pray that the Lord may continue to deepen your love for Him, and that this love may manifest itself in your love for one another and for the Church.

Do not forget Jesus who sleeps! Do not forget Saint Joseph who sleeps! Jesus slept with the protection of Joseph. Do not forget: families find their rest in prayer. Do not forget to pray for families. Pray often and take the fruits of your prayer into the world, that all may know Jesus Christ and His merciful love.

 

Adapted from address of Pope Francis Mall of Asia Arena, Manila Friday, 16 January 2015
1 Matthew 2:13-16 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition

This article can be found in Mirror 0615.