When we think of the Holy Family (Jesus’ family) perhaps we have a picture of the perfect family. Complete harmony in the household, no disagreements or arguments at meal times. In times of danger, angels may appear to give a warning and in times of doubt the angels gently whisper into the ears of Mary and Joseph to give encouragement. Maybe it’s a picture of the Holy Family cut off from the storms of life. However, if we look at the Scriptures we find this is not the reality. Although we are not told much about the Holy Family, we do get some glimpses of what their life was like and they had more than their fair share of trouble.
First of all there is the birth of Jesus with no room at the inn coupled with the fact that giving birth for a woman at this time was the most dangerous and life threatening event she could go through. How stressful is that! Then Jesus became the target for Herod’s murderers, so the family had to flee as refugees to another country, they had no permanent home. Then of course when they get back to Nazareth they had to begin life all over again.
When Jesus was twelve he was lost on a visit to Jerusalem leaving very worried parents full of fear and sorrow. Then during the ministry of Jesus, Mary worried for her Son, at one point she tried to rescue him from the crowds. She witnessed the net of authority close around him and then the crucifixion. It’s hard to imagine what sorrow she must have felt.
This was prophesied in the words of Simeon when Jesus was taken by Mary and Joseph to the temple: “You see this child: he is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too..”
All families today have their share of sorrows, misunderstandings and problems of one kind or another, we are all wounded by sin. But the Holy Family does provide us with hope. We know they went through pain and suffering just like us, but that it turned out all right in the end. Mary lived through the resurrection. When we face problems in our own families we can pray and hope for God to work through them. What is important is how we deal with the problems and how we resolve conflict. People are often closer to one another in hard times than in good, there is more depth to relationships that have weathered storms.
The words of Simeon are used in evening prayer and are known as the Nunc dimittis. Read through the words, notice that Simeon recognised the miracle of the Christ child:
At last, all-powerful Master,
you give leave to your servant
to go in peace, according to your promise.
For my eyes have seen your salvation
which you have prepared for all nations,
the light to enlighten the Gentiles
and give glory to Israel, your people.
Take some time to reflect on your own family, thank God for the gift of life and the blessings you have, but also lift up any difficulties in prayer with the knowledge that He is present with us today.