The Holy Family

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The time between the Holy Family's return from Egypt and the baptism of Jesus we call the "hidden years" or the "private life" of Our Lord.  Except for the time the Holy Family traveled to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve, the Gospels tell us nothing about these years.

Because of this, we can guess that Jesus lived a very ordinary life with his parents.  The time had not yet come for him to begin his public ministry.  So he did not work any miracles or preach any sermons.  To the people of Nazareth Jesus was just another boy.  The scriptures say that Christ was like us in all things but sin.

Much of the same can be said for Our Lady and Saint Joseph.  Both of them led lives of extraordinary holiness and goodness.  Yet there was nothing unusual about their daily routines.  Joseph earned a living as a carpenter, making tables and benches in his workshop, and perhaps helping people to build their homes.  Without the drills and power saws of today, carpentry was hard work.  Joseph must have been tired at the day's end.

As for Mary, she did not need to look for an outside job to keep busy.  Her job was to use Joseph's earnings wisely for the care of their family.  She probably had to go to the market each day for food.  She very likely made all the clothes and perhaps even wove the cloth.  Since homes had no running water in those days, Mary must have had to carry jars of water from the town well.  In addition, Mary must have done what she could to help others like visiting the sick and giving to those who were very poor and hungry.

You can be sure that Jesus helped Joseph and Mary with their many tasks.  And we know that the Holy Family's life was not one of unending work.  they set aside time to relax and enjoy one another.  They spent time in family prayer.  The Sabbath was a special day of worship.

Jesus went to Jerusalem with his parents when he was twelve years old.  It was the time of Passover, the holiest feast of the Jews.  When Mary and Joseph started back for Nazareth, they did not know that Jesus stayed behind.  They thought he was with some of their many friends and relatives who were also making the trip.  A day had passed before Mary and Joseph discovered their mistake.  After three days of worried searching, they found Jesus in the Temple, talking about God with the priests and teachers.  "All who heard him were amazed at his intelligence and his answers." (Lk 2:47).

Mary and Joseph did not understand why Jesus had caused them such sorrow.  But perhaps Mary thought of Simeon's prophecy:  "A sword will pierce your heart."  (Lk 2:35).  Being Mother of the Messiah took great faith, courage, and a readiness to accept suffering without always understanding why.  Jesus went back to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents.  As God, he didn't have to obey anyone.  But because he wanted to share our human life in every way, Jesus chose to respect the command God has given to children everywhere:  "Honor your father and mother."

The Holy Family teaches us some important lessons about ourselves and our role in our own families.

1.  Accept God's will for you.  Mary and Joseph did not expect God to "pay them back" for being good with riches and an easy life.  Instead, they trusted God to do what was best for them.  At God's command, Joseph "dropped everything" and moved his family to Egypt, then back again.  We should all be ready to do what God wants, without question. 

2.  Do the job you are meant to do in your family.  Parents and children are happiest when they work together for the good of the family.  Think of a baseball game.  If all the players crowded onto the pitcher's mound or if the pitcher tried to play second base, the team would never win.  Our job in the "family team" is to do our share.  This was the job Jesus had.  Obedience is not easy, but through it, we learn to do what is expected of us.

3.  Make God a member of the family.  The family whose lives are centered on God is a happy family.  Is there a crucifix, statue, or picture of Jesus (and one of Mary) in the part of the house where you spend the most time together?  Does your family pray before meals?  If you already to this, your family may wish to try more family prayer, such as the rosary or a daily Bible reading.  Perhaps all can attend Mass together, have a special Sunday breakfast, and spend Sunday afternoon doing something you all enjoy.

4.  Do good for others as a family.  Many families find a way to help someone in need.  Some put aside extra money each month for the missions.  Others collect clothing for the poor in their community.  If you have special talents, share them with others.

Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534

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