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Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, today, the day after your holy birth, I want to open my heart more deeply to the mystery of your life. As I am before you today, let me be united to you through this prayer and receive from the Holy Spirit the gift of understanding you more fully. Let me be aware of your presence and wisdom as a guide in my life. Strengthen my hope to attain the holy life to which you have called me (2 Timothy 1:10).
- Seeking Jesus: Mary and Joseph were surprised by Jesus’ behavior and worried about him, just as any parent would be for a lost child. Jesus lived a family life like any of us, and in this moment Jesus did something quite unexpected by not following the caravan headed back to Nazareth. Mary was so exasperated that she voiced her concern aloud to Jesus: “Son, why have you done this to us?” Joseph searched within his own heart to understand. We know what it is like when unexpected events like miscommunication or misunderstandings complicate family or community life. Is our first impulse to voice our concerns to Jesus?
- Jesus Responded: At Jesus’ response, did Mary and Joseph begin to see the unfolding truth of their Son’s mission beyond his immediate family? Jesus, their beloved son, yet also the beloved Son of the Father, was showing them where he was being led by God. He invited them to recognize that, even though his family was home, his place of growth and stability in love, he was being invited by the Father to a witness that would demand a complete “letting go,” a detachment from the two people he surely loved most deeply on earth. Our family is meant to be our stronghold, but ultimately we are all called to communion with Christ through a vocation and mission of our own. This often means letting go. “The mission of the Christian in the world is a mission for all, a mission of service, which excludes no one; it requires great generosity and in particular the gaze and heart turned heavenward to invoke the Lord’s help. There is so much need for Christians who bear witness to the Gospel with joy in everyday life. The disciples, sent by Jesus, ‘returned with joy.’ When we do this, our heart fills with joy” (Pope Francis, Angelus, July 3, 2016).
- The Holy Family: Today’s Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that growth in grace and virtue originates in family life. We have a personal call to holiness, but it is lived out amid others in the close-knit experience of family. Jesus set the example for us by obedience to his earthly parents and total adherence to his heavenly Father’s will. We even have a commandment, “Honor thy father and mother.” So crucial is our loving participation in the family that St. John Paul II said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live” (November 30, 1986).
Conversing with Christ: Dear Lord, thank you for calling me to a family, not only the family that I was born into, but also the family of God and the Church. Let me be aware that in this mystery, I join the mystery of your Incarnation. Help me to be united to you in the way I live my own life within my family and to trust that by my obedience I am growing in holiness and pleasing you. I ask the Holy Family especially to watch over and protect me, my family, and all those whom I love.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will ponder and appreciate how you are working in my family.
For Further Reflection: Familiaris Consortio of Pope John Paul II, on the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World.
Heidi Seubert was a Consecrated Woman of Regnum Christi until her death in December 2021. She most recently served in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was devoted to accompanying young adults in school and parish settings, and leading retreats, youth work, and pilgrimages.