Today, the Church celebrates the liturgical feast of the Holy Family—the family of Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph. And in today’s gospel, we hear about the domestic activities of the Holy Family. Mary and Joseph present their son, Jesus, to the Lord in Jerusalem “in accordance with the dictate of the law of the Lord.” Moreover, we hear that within the Holy Family, Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” Today’s feast, thus, affords us an opportunity to reflect upon the importance of the family—both natural and supernatural.
Family is one of the most important realities that God has created. The family unit lies at the heart of civilization. Familial bonds are an inescapable and critical component of society. Society is not possible without family—because human persons only come into existence through family relations. Additionally, societies only flourish when the importance of families is respected, appreciated, and protected.
How does family come about? Family only comes about through profound relations with others. Family is not a solitary reality. No one “does” family alone.
The relations of family life begin with a man and a woman—spouses who give themselves to each other in a formal, public, and life-long way. A man and a woman can start off as two individuals separate from each other. Through their exchange of matrimonial vows, however, a man and a woman are profoundly changed—changed in a fundamental and a permanent way. Through the bond of marriage, a man becomes a husband and a woman becomes a wife. Marriage truly confers a new identity on the man and on the woman—their matrimonial bond is a real unity that cannot be broken in this life (Rom 7:2–3). As long as both live on this earth, a man and a woman can never go back to being solitary individuals. They remain husband and wife throughout the duration of their earthly lives. Indeed, a husband and a wife are only intelligible in relation to each other. The wife enters into the very identity of her husband, and the husband enters into the very identity of his wife.
The family bond, however, does not stop with the husband and the wife. Through the union of husband and wife, a new relation emerges: that of parent and child. Sons and daughters proceed from the matrimonial bond of husband and wife. The love of the spouses gives existence to their children. And the existence of their children further changes the identity of the husband and the wife. The matrimonial bond between husbands and wives remains only as long as both are alive. But parenthood—the relation of father and mother to child, son or daughter—never ceases. Why is this? The answer is clear: because every human person has an eternal soul, their child will continue to exist for all eternity. For all eternity, a human person is the son or the daughter of a father and a mother.
Again, today is the feast of the Holy Family—Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph. We can ask, however, what makes a family holy? The answer is simple: Jesus. Jesus is the one who made the Holy Family holy. Jesus is also the one who makes our families holy. Jesus is the principle and origin of all holiness. And all of those families who live in and through Our Lord participate in his holiness.
Just as husbands and wives and children are only intelligible in relation to each other, so Mary and Joseph are only understandable in relation to their son: Jesus. Jesus resides at the center of Mary and Joseph’s marriage. Jesus is the one who made their family holy. Jesus makes all families holy.
Therefore, as this calendar year draws to a close, families are invited to thank God for the gift of family. Additionally, we thank God that he has not only established natural family bonds, but that he has also invited all families to find their supernatural identity in the Eternal Son, Jesus. In and through the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, families become truly holy.
Marriage is real. The family bond is real. And Jesus is the real source of all marital and familial holiness.
All families who orient themselves around Jesus truly share in his holiness and in the holiness of the Holy Family—Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph.