Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 Colossians 3:12-21 Mt 2:13-15, 19-23
A Jewish lady named Mrs. Rosenberg many years ago was stranded late one night at a fashionable resort – one that did not admit Jews. The desk clerk looked down at his book and said, “Sorry, no room. The hotel is full.” The Jewish lady said, “But your sign says that you have vacancies.” The desk clerk stammered and then said curtly, “You know that we do not admit Jews. Now if you will try the other side of town…” Mrs. Rosenberg stiffened noticeable and said, “I’ll have you know I converted to your religion.” The desk clerk said, “Oh, yeah, let me give you a little test. How was Jesus born?” Mrs. Rosenberg replied, “He was born to a virgin named Mary in a little town called Bethlehem.” “Very good,” replied the hotel clerk. “Tell me more.” Mrs. Rosenberg replied, “He was born in a manger.” “That’s right,” said the hotel clerk. “And why was he born in a manger?” Mrs. Rosenberg said loudly, “Because a jerk like you in the hotel wouldn’t give a Jewish lady a room for the night!”
Dear Friends! The Holy Family of Nazareth, Jesus, Mary and Joseph are put before us by the Church this weekend as a model for our families. We call them “The Holy Family” but that does not mean that they did not have problems. Just as every family has to face problems and overcome them, or to put it another way, has to carry a cross, so also The Holy Family had to carry crosses. Their many crosses come to mind as we read the Scriptures.
We can easily imagine how misunderstood both Mary and Joseph must have been when Mary conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Their story would never be believed. Even Mary herself had it very rough early in the pregnancy when Joseph was planning to divorce her before the angel intervened in a dream. When the time for Jesus’ delivery came it took place in an animals’ shelter since Bethlehem was already so crowded. Then the family had to flee to Egypt as refugees because Jesus’ life was in danger due to Herod, in much the same way as refugees from war-torn countries are now entering many western countries. Mary and Joseph suffered the awful experience of losing Jesus for three days when he was twelve years old and the only satisfaction they got from him was that he had to be about his Father’s business.
We do not hear of Joseph any more so we presume that before Jesus began his public ministry in Galilee Joseph had died – The Holy Family suffering the greatest pain of all families, the pain of bereavement and separation through death. Jesus’ public ministry must have taken its toll on Mary. Simeon had predicted in the Temple that a sword of sorrow would pierce Mary’s soul.
What kept The Holy Family together and sane throughout all of these trials and crosses? The answer is ‘Love for each other and God’. Jesus’ love for Mary and Mary’s love for Jesus, and the love of both of them for God the Father. We can see Jesus’ love for his mother when he was dying on the cross and was worried about leaving her behind so he asked his close friend and disciple John to look after her, saying to Mary, ‘Woman behold your son’, and to John ‘behold your mother’ (John 19:26-27).
What holds our families together also in times of difficulty is love and forgiveness.
A senior Judge of the Supreme Court recently congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage with a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a court room; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys, in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife — as in a confessional — are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.”
It is love which triumphs in the end, even if for a while love may have to take the form of some honest talking. I believe that the greatest threat facing families now is simply that we don’t spend enough time together. We are so busy working, or socializing, or watching TV that we have less and less time for each other.
Just as the holy family survived all its crises through love for each other and faith in God, let us pray during this Mass that our families will conquer all difficulties through love for each other and faith in God.