Sisters and Brothers! On this Sunday of the Holy Family we are taken to this school which was also the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. However this Sunday we find them not in their own home in Nazareth but in a much bigger building: the Jerusalem Temple. Still it was their home because the Jerusalem Temple was the dwelling place on earth for the Almighty God, the Father of the Child Jesus whom they presented there. However they were not dropping off the child for a weekend or so. The Jerusalem Temple was their home too as they were the descendants of Abraham and thus the people of God. Mary and Joseph, like all Jews, were the fulfilment of the promise which God gave to Abram as we could hear in our First Reading from the Book of Genesis. God said to the old and childless Patriarch: ‘Look up to heaven and count the stars if you can. Such will be your descendants.’ Mary and Joseph, and Jesus too, were among those stars Abram saw that night.
The old man may have been stunned at this promise but he ‘put his faith in the Lord.’ That’s why his name was changed. We met him as Abram which means the Noble Father. He was noble indeed in believing in God’s promise despite him and his wife being in their eighties. But God made them wait a bit longer so that the birth of their child could not be explained in any other way than by God’s intervention. The last three verses of today’s reading tell us about the conception and birth of their son Isaac some years later. Abram was 99 when his son was conceived. God gave him also a new name: Abraham which means The Father of Many Nations. Similarly the name of his wife Sarai meaning My Princess was changed to Sarah meaning The Mother of Many Nations. That’s why the Jewish people believed, and still believe, that they were more than a nation, they were a family. It wasn’t a perfect family but it was a holy family because the Holy One, God, lived in their midst. In them God was recreating his great plan for all men and women, his sons and daughters.
The Bible tells us that at the beginning God created man and woman. Not just two genders but a marriage which can continue God’s creation by giving birth to their children and thus becoming a family. I believe that as Christians we need to reclaim faith in this miracle that when God created man and woman he also created marriage and family. When the descendants of Adam and Eve got corrupted and ended up in their destruction in the waters of the Great Flood God saved the future of the humankind not in a few ideal individuals but in the family of Noah.
When the fullness of time came and Mary, who was engaged to Joseph, conceived the Son of God their future marriage was on the brink of a breakdown as we read in the Gospel of Matthew. Joseph wanted to send her away. However God was fighting to save the marriage of Mary and Joseph. Their marriage was necessary so that Jesus could have a family and so that the family of Nazareth, which we call the Holy Family, could grow into One, Holy and Catholic Church. We are not an organisation. We are not an institution. We are a family. That’s why we are brothers and sisters calling God our Father, calling Jesus our Brother, calling Mary our Mother, calling also the Church our Mother.
The Holy Family Sunday occurs only once a year but what Saint Paul VI said in Nazareth in 1964 is a prophetic urging for all of us. The Holy Family reminds us that as Christians we are a family. The Holy Family also reminds us that our families, built on the marriage of man and woman, are as necessary for the Church as the priesthood is. In fact the both sacraments: the Priesthood and the Holy Matrimony are called the sacraments of at the service of unity. Without them the Church will fall apart.