Feast of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
“Divine Intimacy” by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD
On this day for the last time in the cycle of the liturgical year, the Church invites us to contemplate the mystery of Jesus’ humble, hidden life. A feeling of close intimacy and tenderness characterizes this Feast and is expressed in the liturgy of the day. It is good for us to recall the little home at Nazareth and the humble life of those who lived there. In it, Jesus learned Joseph’s humble trade, and grew in age, and was happy sharing the work of a carpenter: ‘Let the sweat,” He seemed to say, ‘trickle over My limbs before they are drenched with the torrent of My Blood, and the pain of this labor shall go to atone for the sins of men!’ Let us enter the little house; in the presence of such humility, which conceals Jesus’ infinite Majesty, let us repeat the words of the sacred text: “Thou art indeed a hidden King, O God the Savior, King of Israel.”
Today’s liturgy particularly emphasizes one typical aspect of the humble life of this hidden God: obedience. “Although He was the Son of God . . . He learned to obey; He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death.” From Bethlehem to Calvary obedience was His companion. The Gospel stresses this obedience of Jesus at Nazareth in words which carry for all time the strength of their first utterance, “He was subject to them.” Let us ask ourselves with St. Bernard, “Who obeyed? Whom did He obey?” The saint replies, “God obeyed man! Yes, the God to whom the angels are subject . . . Was subject to Mary, and not only to Mary, but also to Joseph. For God to obey a woman is humility without parallel. . . Learn then, man to obey; learn, O earth, to be submissive. God subjected Himself to men; and do you, desiring to rule others, place yourself above your Creator?”
“Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” Jesus, who was so humble and submissive, did not hesitate to make this reply to Mary when she gently questioned Him about having remained behind in the Temple without her or Joseph’s knowledge, while they in anguish had been seeking Him for three days.
These are the first words of Jesus which we find recorded in the Gospel. He spoke them in order to declare His mission and to affirm the primacy of the rights of God. When hardly an adolescent, Jesus taught us that God and the things of God must always come first. He must hold the first place in our lives, and we must obey Him regardless of all other considerations, even if it means sacrificing the rights of nature and of blood. Yielding to relatives and friends is no longer a virtue—and may even be sinful—if it leads us away from the will of God or hinders its fulfillment.
Giving precedence to the rights of God does not imply that we neglect our duties toward our neighbor. Today’s Feast calls our attention to these obligations and especially to those concerning our family, natural or religious, inviting us to follow the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth. To this end, the Epistle shows us the virtues we should practice: “Clothe yourself. . . with mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, and patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another.”