Feast of the Holy Family
True Affection is Found in Adversity
Harmony Built Up the Holy Family
First Reading ( Sir 3:3-7,14-17) : Honour your father and mother
Second Reading ( Col 3:12-21 ) : Family life of Christians
Gospel (Mt 2:13-15,19-23 ) : The Holy Family must flee but relied on the Lord
“The person and the mirror were gone, The mirror came back but the person did not; The shadow of the Lady of the Moon could be seen no more, only the bright moon shone in the empty sky.” (1)
‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ (Mt 2: 13 )
Before we talk about the doctrine of the Holy Family let me tell you a little story. Before the Tang Dynasty in China there were several other dynasties. One of them was the Southern Dynasty which was ruled by the House of Chen. The country was in a state of war and turmoil. Xu De Yian and his wife, the Princess Luo Chang, were forced to go separate ways. Xu took a mirror and broke it into two halves, giving one half to his wife and keeping the other half himself. They pledged to look for each other a year later. If they could find each other, the two pieces of mirror would be as one again.
A year later, Xu De Yian went to the market to sell his half of the mirror. A servant of Princess Luo Chang came along. He took out the other half of the mirror. The two pieces of the mirror were a perfect match and were reunited. However, the Princess was nowhere to be found. In his sorrow Xu De Yian wrote this poem on the mirror: “The person and the mirror were gone, The mirror came back but the person did not; The shadow of the Lady of the Moon could be seen no more, only the bright moon shone in the empty sky.”(1) To begin with, no one knew where the person and the mirror were. The mirror had returned but the person was nowhere to be found. There was not a trace of her. Only the light of the solo moon was left.
There was a happy ending to this story so it was called “The Reunion of the Broken Mirror.” Xu De Yian did find his wife. Having endured separation and turmoil, the two of them loved each other even more than before.
The story in today's Gospel of Matthew is quite similar to this story. King Herod wanted to kill the newborn infant but did not know where to find him. So he thought of a brutal plan. He killed all the boys below two years old in Bethlehem and the neighboring regions. The infant could not slip away.
At that time, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said to him, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt.”
Escape to Egypt! God seemed powerless in protecting His own Son! The almighty God must flee for his life!
Later King Herod died. In Egypt the angel appeared again to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel’ One can imagine how the family of three had suffered during this unsettling time. After having been cleansed in the baptism of suffering and endured frustration and difficulties, their affection for each other was surely even closer than before. Furthermore, with Jesus as the pillar and center of the family, it was surely the best family in the world. (rf Mt 2: 13-15, 19-23).
In the Scripture readings for today's liturgy, besides the passage from Matthew's Gospel, Paul's letter to the Colossians has also been chosen. In one paragraph Paul describes the characteristics of a loving family, “Be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” ( Col 3:15-17)
This is a marvelous passage. Paul thinks there should be two main elements in a Christian family, it should always be thankful and it should consider the Word of God the core of life.
The first element is to be grateful. Paul said , ‘Give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything’ (Eph 5:20). He put the stress on “always” and “everything”. “Always” means there is no time that we should not be thankful, “everything” means that we should be thankful for every single thing. Though every family has its own difficulties, as did the Holy Family, we must always be grateful for everything.
The dilemma recorded in today's Gospel was difficult for Joseph to understand and presented him with a big challenge. He must have asked himself, if the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was the beloved Son of God, why did God not protect him but sent the family to Egypt? Nonetheless, Joseph accepted this arrangement and took the child and his wife and fled to Egypt. Under such circumstances he continued to obey, to be submissive and remain grateful.
Though our lives may be full of frustration and unhappiness, still we should continue to be grateful. Joseph and Mary were grateful not because everything in their lives went smoothly, but because they were obedient, faithful and committed to God. They put everything in the hands of God.
Secondly, the Word of God was central to their lives, i.e. God's Word was rooted deeply in their hearts. Each of us should read and meditate on Scripture, letting God's Word enter deeply into our hearts. Scripture is the support, core and foundation of the family.
If we regularly meditate on Scripture, our families will be filled with wisdom; moreover, letting
Scripture be our guide will lessen the risk of family members becoming too self-centred and self-righteous.
If as a family we support each other with prayer and mutual encouragement, praise God with hymns and psalms, do all in the name of Christ and through Christ give thanks to God, our family will be joyful and united as one.
Is it not much better for family members to prayerfully teach and encourage each other rather than be angry and rail against each other? Even more, let us hope that parents will use the spirit of the Holy Family in raising their children and allow the spirit of Christ to be part of their maturing and part of their entire lives.