Thursday, December 30, 2021

The Imperfect Holy Family

"He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man."
Luke 2:51-52

There is no such thing as a perfect family. In most cases it is because none of us are perfect. Aside from that, there is also the reality that the circumstances that surround us are flawed because of the different types of people that we deal with on a daily basis. 
With that being said, even the Holy Family was far from perfect.  I'm sure we heard many examples of this in the multiple homilies we heard over this past Christmas weekend with all of us being able to relate to each idea in our own way. As always, the bible is not only filled with stories of real people whose faith in God made a big difference in their lives but also lessons for all of us to apply to our own lives.  
Firstly, imagine Mary's position: a teenage girl betrothed to a man (so in all essence she was already his wife in those days) and having to tell him that you are going to have a child that is not his.  Imagine being in Joseph's shoes, having the responsibility of raising such a child after accepting the truth of the origins of this child, which for many would have been all but impossible without the grace of God. This certainly serves as a source of inspiration for those of us who have been faced with a task that seems all but impossible. 
From the moment of Jesus' birth, there were many challenges that they faced.  As parents we all want the best for our children, some couples choosing what nice hospital, with large birthing rooms to give birth at, or having elaborate home births with a doula.  Yet, for the parents of our Lord and Savior, no one had room for them except in a stable, born among the animals, where they fed, slept and even urinated and defecated, then laid in a manger, the container from which animals fed.  I could only imagine what Joseph would have felt like, not being able to find a comfortable room for his wife to give birth after traveling for so long.  Imagine Mary being far from everyone she knows, far from the comfort of her own home.  

Aside from not having the comfort of a room at an inn the couple would barely have time to stop and celebrate the birth of Jesus nor could they simply go home following Joseph fulfilling his obligation to register for the census. Herod's obsession to find the Holy Child, which led to the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, forced the Holy Family to flee to Egypt. We could only wonder the fear and anxiety felt by the couple while they fled along with whatever concerns they had once they settled into the land of Egypt. All they could do was have faith in the where the Lord had guided them in order to keep them safe. Still, the Holy Family would eventually be allowed to go home while many before and after them would experience similar dangers while never having the chance to return home.

Even the moments of enlightenment and joy do not always start out that way. During the moment known as the Finding in the Temple the couple would have endure searching for Jesus for three days before finding Him among the teachers of the Temple. Perhaps that could remind us of the many unsettling moments we have experienced in our lives when we were searching for our own answers....or when we await to hear from someone else the important details that they need to share with us. 

There are so many who speculate on what many call The Lost Years of Jesus: His teen and early adult years. There are so many traditions and stories that have developed over the centuries with the Church not recognizing these as authentic mainly because they do not fit a typical narrative of Jewish man from the first century. Perhaps the answer to such questions lies within Jesus' followers. We have all experienced things within ourselves and with our families that have led to feelings of love and joy along with pain and growth with us admitting that we would not trade those experiences for anything. This is part of being human. Jesus Christ was true God and human so while we may not have specifics we know more about Jesus' earthly life than we realize. We can take those to prayer and ask for the Lord to guide us during the difficult times while also giving Him thanks for the joys that come from being human. 

For Mary, she had the experience of presenting her child to the Lord before being told of the pain she will undergo as the mother of Jesus. For years she would see this manifest itself in so many ways before having to endure the death of her Son before her eyes. With only her faith and trust in the Lord to hold on to she would wait three days before experiencing the Rising of her Son, the fulfillment of His promise, the fullness of the gift that she accepted in her womb. Her trust rewarded. Hope fulfilled not just for her but for her people; for all of humanity. We also have those moments where our faith and trust are challenged; when we simply cannot comprehend all that is happening us. But, if we keep our eyes on the Lord and remain in faith we will see all that God has planned for us.

But what of Joseph, the parent who would not be present for such events? The earthly father who was charged to love and protect our Blessed Mother along with the Holy Child. What did he endure while approaching his last breath knowing he would have to leave his family behind? Knowing the woman that he called his wife he had to know that she would do whatever it took to be there for Jesus when He needed her. And, knowing the Son her raised was certainly comforted by the fact that this young man would not care for His mother but also fulfill all that He was called to do by His Heavenly Father. As spouses we are comforted in knowing that we can rely on our partners to do what must be done for our families. As parents we can also feel the joy of seeing our children grow into capable adults fulfilling the will of God in their own lives. 

Now let us ponder the last two verses in the second chapter of Luke after Jesus was finally found in the temple: He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man. What the last line implies is that He was not already born fully with the wisdom and knowledge that Jesus had during His ministry.  He gained more wisdom as He grew up.  What a great responsibility that was placed on Mary and Joseph's shoulders, to have to raise, nurture, and teach the Christ child who would be the Savior of the world.  Consider the kind of environment Jesus needed to grow up in, to have already been wise enough to preach at a young age.  Then to be willing to go back home, already knowing His calling, and continue to be raised by Mary and Joseph is a testament to the amount of love they gave, and it shows in the compassion He showed in His ministry.

For His mother, twice Luke's Gospel mentions that Mary "kept... these things in her heart."  The first time was when the shepherds told her what the angel told them of Jesus when he was born (Lk 2:19) and after Jesus was found in the temple preaching.  It did not say that she kept these things in mind, where she just remembered and thought of it.  But she held on to it and felt it deeply. She is not God, so she did not have the gift of omniscience.  But considering that the first miracle Jesus ever performed was encouraged by His mother, she truly believed from within who He was.  She did not shy away from the responsibility, but she with Joseph did what they could.  In looking all that Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to go through, there was no room for pride.  They constantly, obediently, faithfully and willingly followed God's plan for them.

Living as imperfect families do not remove the reality of love and the sense of hope and commitment that come from that love. Even the holiest families will never be spared the struggle and suffering that comes from the human experience but the love and commitment that was modeled in the Holy Family should also he the focus on how we should live within our own families, humbly and faithfully, which in turn will allow us to say, Thy will be a family.  


Carlos Solorzano

BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach
Certified Through the Theology of the Body Institute
Co-Founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate

Angelica Delallana

Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner
Fertility Care Practitioner Intern and NaPro Technology Medical Consultant Intern with the St. Paul VI Institute
Confirmation Catechist
Co-Founder of Humana Corpus Dignitate