A sound teacher for family life
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
Today, two days after the Christmas solemnity, the Church jubilantly celebrates family life by presenting to us the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
In his Angelus address of last year on the Feast of the Holy Family Pope Francis said that “the Child Jesus with his Mother Mary and with Saint Joseph are the icon of the family, simple yet illuminating. The light they radiate is a light of mercy and salvation for the whole world, a light of truth for every man, for the human family and for individual families”. But how is this so?
The Holy Family powerfully unravels the centrality of the Christ Child. He is the focus on which the entire Holy family revolves. At the Annunciation episode Mary accepts her vocation to be the mother of God’s Son. With her ‘yes’ she gives herself entirely to her Son in the joys and sorrows which life had in store for her. On his part Joseph too embraces his calling from the angel to be the guardian of Jesus and his mother. As it stands, the callings of Mary and Joseph are God’s revelationto us concerning the universal human vocation to holiness that is realizable by Christ’s presence in family life in every age. This also means that the main responsibility of the family is that of praying, worshipping and studying the Bible as a family, specifically by reflecting on the meaning of Christ’s mission both for their family life together concomitant with thedevelopment of each individual person which makes up the family.
The presence of Christ in our families reminds us that we live in Him. We live as children of Our Beloved Father in Heaven with that same trust, obedience, responsive love which we continually receive from God the Father in Christ, His Son. Parents are in a splendid situation to reflect about the childhood state of their own children as well as theirs before God theFather. Did not Jesus tell us that “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3)?
Within the same Angelus address Pope Francis stressed that with Jesus in our midst our family is open to the extended family. While recalling the account when the Holy Family met the two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, in the temple, theHoly Father commented: “Jesus! Jesus brings them together, the youth and the elderly. Jesus is the One who brings thegenerations together. He is the source of that love that unites families and people, overcoming all mistrust, all isolation, every distance”. Is modern day family not in dire need of experiencing this closeness with the extended family it derives from?
Christ in family teaches us to deepen our personal presence to each other within the ambit of the family. How actual is Saint John Paul II’s appeal as it clearly emerges from his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio: “Family, become what you are” (no. 17)! Every family is called to incarnate in itself the life of Christ by generously responding and fulfilling thephysical, emotional, and spiritual needs of spouses and children.
The great love which Mary and Joseph showed to each other and to the Child Jesus in their Nazareth home exhorts our families to be schools of peace and reconciliation.
In famous Angelus address of 2013 commemorating the Holy Family feast Pope Francis said:
“Today our contemplation of the Holy Family lets itself be drawn also by the simplicity of the life they lead at Nazareth. It is an example that is very good for our families, it helps them further to become communities of love and reconciliation in which tenderness, mutual help and reciprocal forgiveness are experienced. Let us remember the 3 key phrases for a life of peace and joy in the family: excuse me, thank you, I’m sorry. In a family when you are not intrusive but say ‘excuse me,’ when you are not self-centered but say ‘thank you,’ and when you realize that you have done something wrong and you say ‘I’m sorry,’ in that family there is peace and joy.”
Will we let these 3 phrases of ‘excuse me’, ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ heal our family life?