The focus on family is all part of God’s plan

ZARAGOZA, SPAIN - MARCH 3, 2018: The carved polychrome sculpture of Holy Family in church Iglesia de San Miguel de los Navarros from 19th century. (iStock)

Reflection on Mass readings for Dec. 31 (Feast of the Holy Family)


Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14

Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

Colossians 3:12-21 or 3:12-17

Luke 2:22-40


Why celebrate a feast for the Holy Family? Don’t we already have multiple feasts for Mary and Joseph throughout the liturgical year? And the Christmas season is all about rejoicing in the birth of Jesus after preparing for him during Advent!

God spent thousands of years preparing the world – and us – for the coming of his Son, our Savior. There are prophecies about Mary and the virgin birth, most notably, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; they will strike at your head, while you will strike at their heel” (Gn 3:15), and “The Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.” (Is 7:14).

Yet God sent his Son, our Savior, into the world precisely within a family, the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and this is what the Church wants to highlight for us on this Feast of the Holy Family.

Each feast day of the Church offers us a mystery of our faith to meditate and reflect upon, learn from, and pray about in our lives. We are also meant to celebrate with gratitude God’s gift of the person or event recalled on the feast.

On this celebration of the Holy Family, God teaches us how important the family is to his plan for the world. His Son is born into and lives an apparently ordinary life with his earthly family for thirty years until his public ministry begins. Even when Jesus begins to preach, he speaks little of his earthly parents, instead identifying himself with his spiritual family: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Mt 12:50).

Yet we know that Jesus had to be cared for as a child. He was loved and taught by Mary and Joseph as he lived real family life with them. Imagine how they must have enjoyed laughter and fun times together, such as Jesus’ first words or watching him run after the butterflies or pick up worms.

As a young man, Jesus would have learned the carpentry trade from his father. Even from a young age, he also would have experienced life’s sorrows, such as becoming a refugee fleeing for his life. He experienced the death of his dear foster father, Joseph, and the reality that he would now support his mother, Mary.

In the midst of our lives, perhaps we forget that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, holy as they were, nonetheless experienced so many of the same joys and sorrows of life that we do. Jesus is God made man, and he experienced everything we experience – except sin. He understands the hurts and joys we experience, and realizes that sometimes things do not happen as we plan or want.

How did Mary and Joseph get to be so holy? Faith. Even though Mary was conceived without any stain of sin, she, like Joseph, had to live by faith. They did not always know what would happen next and, like us, had to trust in God’s plan for their lives, just like Abraham and Sarah in the first reading.

Living family life is one of the greatest blessings and greatest challenges. God’s plan is that each of us is born into a family where our mother and father present us for baptism according to the law of the Church, the sacrament of our new birth into the life of grace as adopted sons and daughters of God.

In the Gospel for this Sunday, Mary and Joseph, too, bring Jesus to the temple according to the Jewish law, “to present him to the Lord just as it is written in the law of the Lord” (Lk 2:22-23). While they are there, Simeon foretells the greatness of Jesus, who will be a light to the nations, but he also foretells the sorrows that will come to Mary.

In this moment we see in Mary the mystery of what it means to live by faith as we face the uncertainty of the future, even if that future holds deep sorrow. Mary can show us what it looks like to live full of trust in a loving Father.

On this Feast of the Holy Family, let us rejoice in our heritage, the family of God! Together with the saints in heaven, those on earth, and the souls in purgatory, we form God’s family, the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ.

Let us not only pray for and intercede on behalf of our own natural family, but also for all our brothers and sisters in Christ, that one day we may all be together, rejoicing eternally.


Sister Immaculata is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia in Nashville, TN. She currently serves at Saint Mary Star of the Sea School in Hampton.

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