On Christmas Day we celebrated the birthday of Jesus. We welcomed the Son of God joining the family of man. On the following Sunday we reflect on His Family Life – that of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
They blended in so well with their neighbours that when Jesus started preaching they complained that He was only the son of a carpenter. They thought Jesus was getting above himself. They wanted to cut Him down to size.
Isn’t it striking that 30 of the roughly 33 years the Son of God lived on earth were so very ordinary –a humdrum family life, very similar to ours? And, yet, that was far from wasted time and opportunity.
It was in the family that Jesus grew up and learnt, in a human way, to love and obey his heavenly Father and His human parents, and saw for how husband and wife lovingly related to one another. Theirs was the God-given vocation of being home-makers. And so it is for most of us for at least part of our lives. This is one of the most significant ways of our giving glory to God and in so doing becoming glorious ourselves.
And now, in our time, if Jesus is at the heart of our own family lives, what seems to be so mundane takes on an eternal value, in which we find God in the love we show him and each other. And that is where God find us.
In the family children are to begin to learn to behave like decent civilized human beings. They are learning to grow ever more like God, in whose image we have been made. And if adults do not continue to practice this until their dying day, the quality of their living together, the quality of their relationship with God, will crumble.
Pope Francis gives us a very good idea of what God is like and what we should become like. The ‘Face of God is Mercy.’ If we are to be at all godly we must become merciful. As simple as that! Sensitivity – being there with others, there for others, in their joys and sorrows. Never allowing a person to feel lonely, unloved.
This kind of love must begin in the home...giving a helping hand when there’s much to be done around the house; showing an interest in how husband or wife, dad or mother, son or daughter, has spent the day…congratulating and commiserating. This calls for loving sensitivity and compassion. Maybe, taking care of each other.
Responding to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the different members of the Holy Family formed the very rhythm of Holy Family’s life. The same must be true for ours. In other words, the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy should be at the heart of our family lives, as they were for Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
The stories of many families today resemble that of the Holy Family…finding a home, shelter, even safety; putting food on the table, providing clothing, looking after the sick, comforting each other when there’s a death in the family; most certainly, working to provide for the needs of the family, with everyone being responsible in the use of whatever is available.
Probably we adults don’t realize how much we can give spiritual support to another even in our families. Offering to pray for daddy or mummy when they’ve had a rough day, can in itself be a great comfort. So, too making them a cup of tea.
We must insist that children have a right to get their earliest religious instruction in the home. Here good example is far more effective than thousands of words. The young child, enthusiastic about going to church, may influence adults to give it a try! What about Jesus showing Joseph and Mary how important it was for Him to be in the Temple – even though this earned Him a scolding for causing them so much distress?
However, it’s great to be idealistic, romantic, about family life. The reality is that it’s much about imperfect individuals imperfectly relating to one another and (please God) striving to make life together more loving, more pleasant.
The willingness to apologize and forgive is the bedrock of a livable family life! Striving for peace in the home is a supreme Spiritual Work of Mercy! If we’ve learned to appreciate this in the family there’s a fair chance we may carry it into school, the work-place-even and onto the playing field.
The Face of God is Mercy! The ‘Human Face of God’ is the ‘Sacrificial-Merciful Love’ of Jesus! In His public ministry Jesus gave of His All, and then, on the cross, He gave His very life. Something of this total unselfishness should be in all our relating to others – especially within the family.
God intends that our families become Today’s Human Face Of Divine Mercy! First of all, to each other in the home, and then everyone else!
Never, never, nice to all and sundry ‘out there’ and nasty to those living under the same roof!
Peter and Isidore O.P.