By Father Kyle
There are two large mosaics of the Holy Family at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Erie on the outside walls of the mausoleums. I passed by them a number of times for funeral committals there. One mosaic shows Jesus as a child, with Mary and Joseph surrounding Him. The other mosaic shows the Risen Lord in heaven, standing again in the midst of them and surrounding them in His embrace. In both mosaics, in the Holy Family’s past in Nazareth and in their present glory in heaven, Jesus is front and center, just as He was front and center in the lives and hearts of Mary and Joseph. God had brought them together in marriage because of His Son, and His Son was their joy and delight as they raised Him in the knowledge and love of God His Father. Mary and Joseph knew in faith that Jesus, the little child in their midst, was God, ever since the Annunciation and the angel’s revelation to Joseph in his dream, but their understanding of His mission and their own parts in it grew over time, just as Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man. Because of this, they had to continually submit to God’s will and trust in Him as their Son’s life on earth unfolded. What a high honor Mary and Joseph had been given – to be the family and make a home for the Lord of all creation, to have their marriage and their family filled and guided by Divine Love and Mercy Himself, in the flesh.
What is portrayed in those two mosaics, what we see right over there (point to Nativity cresch), was reserved in a special way to Mary and Joseph, regarding the Incarnation and Jesus’ first coming, but it is also the standard for all human families, especially Christian families. On this Feast of the Holy Family, as we continue to celebrate Christmas, we look in wonder upon the goodness and kindness of the Lord, who chose to become a little child for us and become a part of a human family, but He was not just a member of this family. He was the heart of this family, bringing the love of Mary and Joseph to perfection, even as they helped Him grow to manhood and embraced the Father’s will for Him. Likewise, Jesus is to be the heart of our families, of every family. The home is not just a place where people live, eat, and sleep, preparing us for college and a good career, and the vocation of the Christian family is not primarily directed to the happiness of its members, at least not in some generic sense of the word. The Christian home should be our first and ongoing experience of the love of God and the truth He has revealed, and life in the Christian family is directed to the holiness of its members, to the living of their calling and identity as the children of God who they are by God’s grace and adoption.
Our family ties are secondary to our ties to God as His sons and daughters. Faith, obedience, and charity form the path to seeing God as He is and enjoying the perfect life with Him. Our families here on earth are meant to prepare us for this, and in order to do this, our families must be filled and guided more and more by divine love and mercy, not only here in the Mass once a week, but also constantly at home. The Catechism tells us that the Christian family is the domestic church, meaning that it is the primary setting for our growth in faith, discerning and obeying God’s will for us, and charity toward God and neighbor. The parish cannot be the only place where this happens. Christ wants to be with us all the time, not just on Saturday evenings or Sunday mornings. Mary and Joseph knew this, and so they made a fitting home for Him. They did not know all the details of God’s plan for Him or for themselves, but they trusted in God and did all they could, on their part, to prepare Jesus to embrace His vocation.
Our families should strive to be open to God’s will with the same trust and faith, realizing that our families here on earth should be helping us and making us ready to join the family of angels and saints in heaven. What happens at home should mirror what happens here and thus mold each of us into better Christians and better Catholics. This does not mean that our families have to be perfect. Perfection is for heaven. Here on earth, in our limited understanding and our struggle with sin and weakness, we strive to make the most of every single day, to make gradual progress in manifesting the love of the Holy Trinity, the family and communion that is God. In this holy work, we have the Holy Family as powerful helpers and intercessors, and we have in them a model to imitate.
What does this look like for us? It might start out in a small, simple way – setting aside five minutes each day to pray together, reading aloud the Sunday Mass readings and reflecting on them in silence or in discussion. Maybe it will involve getting a copy of the Catechism and reading a passage from it each week. Maybe it will involve watching a faith-based movie together every now and then or praying Grace before meals and dining together at the dinner table. Perhaps some of us are already doing this and more, and if so, that is great! Whatever simple things can be done in our homes to make them more holy are worthwhile because they help us to make Christ front and center in our families, where He belongs. The more we put this into practice now, the more fit and ready we will be for Him to be front and center for us in heaven.