On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. This feast celebrates the family unit and the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. On this day we offer our own families and all the members of our community on the altar for God's blessing from the Holy Family.
The feast of the Holy Family reminds us that as the basic unit of the universal Church, each family is called to holiness. The Holy Family tells us about the Divine Son of God Jesus, his mother Mary, and his foster father Joseph. We know very little about the life of the Holy Family through the Scriptures. They speak of the early years of the Holy Family, including the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the flight into Egypt, the finding of Jesus in the temple and their life at Nazareth.
The readings of today speak of the family as a gift of God. In the first reading Sirach provides the insight and reflections on true wisdom. His purpose is to help the readers to recognize the wealth of Wisdom in Israel. Mary and Joseph experience the awakening in their child Jesus his life's direction. Already now Jesus assumes the responsibility God has placed onto him. Even though they do not fully grasp its implication they go back with him to Nazareth and we have the example of the Holy Family. St John reminds us that we are all children of God and a gift from God begotten in love and called to give back that love only to God.
The feast usually falls on the Sunday after Christmas. Devotion to the Holy Family is a recent development, but one that has grown out of a love for Jesus and his family. The cult of the Holy Family grew in popularity in the 17th century, and several religious congregations have been founded under this title. The Holy Family also became portrayed in popular art of the period. On October 26, 1921 the Congregation of Rites under Pope Benedict XV inserted the Feast of the Holy Family into the church's general calendar. Earlier Popes particularly Leo XIII promoted the feast as a way to counter the breakdown of the family unit. The feast was kept as special day to consider the dignity of the family and to show our respect to the persons of the earthly trinity. From its early days, the church placed special emphasis on the importance of Family as a key unit in the structure of the Church. By celebrating the Sunday following Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family, the Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that he might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God.BACK TO LIST