The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
December 27, 2020 — Year B
Readings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 / Ps 128 / Col 3:12-21 / Lk 2:22-40
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Today is a feast that is particularly close to my heart. It is the Feast of the Holy Family. I have been particularly drawn to this feast because I am married and have children of my own. Of the members of the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph – I am particularly fond of St. Joseph, possibly because I have always wanted to be like Joseph – a husband and father. It is particularly appropriate that we reflect on the life of St. Joseph today.
On December 8, Pope Francis declared 2021 as the Year of St. Joseph. It is the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of Pope Pius IV’s declaring that St. Joseph is the patron of the universal Church. So from December 8, 2020, until December 8, 2021, St. Joseph should hold a special place in our hearts.
When Pope Francis declared the year of St. Joseph, he also wrote an apostolic letter reflecting on the life of St. Joseph, and how it is an example for us. I would like to share with you a few things from that letter.
The first thing that Pope Francis pointed out was that St. Joseph trusted in God. Scriptures tell us that Joseph was a “righteous man,” which means that, as a first century Jew, he stuck very closely to the law as handed down from Moses. When Joseph accepted Mary and took her into his home, he was potentially opening himself up for ridicule and persecution. It was a big deal back then to be discovered pregnant when you weren’t married. But God spoke to Joseph in a dream, telling him not to be afraid to take Mary into his home. That was enough for Joseph. It helps us to reflect on that; when we have a time that we have to do something difficult, we can look to Joseph as an inspiration.
Second, St. Joseph put Jesus and Mary first. Think about that for a minute. Joseph made his living as a carpenter; he had tools and a particular skill set. But God told Joseph in a dream to go to Egypt to protect his son, Jesus. Once again, he trusted and he went. I can’t imagine he got to take all he wanted with him, but he went anyway, because he wanted to protect his family. Sometimes we are faced with those difficult choices, when we need to step out of our comfort zone, and St. Joseph is an example that can help us when we face those difficult times.
Lastly, St. Joseph always worked from the “wings;” he was always in the background. He was only mentioned fifteen times in the New Testament, and he never had a line of dialog. But he was there; he had Jesus’ back. I think that this year, those among us who work in the background stood out. I’m thinking of health care workers who sometimes worked double shifts, who sometimes didn’t get to see their families.
Pope Francis has a particularly poignant line in his letter. He says, “A good father realizes that he is most a father, an educator, at the point when he becomes useless, when his children don’t need him anymore. That’s the point that confirms that he has done a good job.” And that is not glamorous, but it is necessary, and it’s noble.
2020 has been particularly difficult for all of us. There have been many trials throughout the year. Recently, a young person shared an observation with me. This person told me that this year, 2020, has really revealed people’s true nature. It’s revealed that some people are really true at heart; they are caring and helping people who are willing to make personal sacrifices- oftentimes unnoticed – to help others. On the other side, it has shown that some people are really pretty selfish. These people are unwilling to even take small steps to help others.
If we are honest with ourselves, we all fall somewhere in between, rarely if ever falling into that first category, even though as Christians that’s where we are called to be. We can’t change on our own, but with the grace of God, with St. Joseph as our guide, our intercessor and our patron, we can draw strength from Christ to continue down the path to where we need to be.
In closing, I’d like to share the prayer which Pope Francis used to conclude his apostolic letter. I think it is particularly appropriate and I intend to use it frequently during this year. It goes:
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted His only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.