The opening sentence of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece Anna Karenina is a striking one: ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ We can be sure that the Holy Family was a happy family, but like all happy families their happiness was forged through trial and suffering and the ups and downs of domestic daily living. Today we cross the threshold into the tranquillity and holiness of Holy Family. Here we find the hearth at which Jesus lived his hidden years. Here we find the first domestic Church, a loving family devoted to God and to each other.
The Scriptures only speak of the birth of Jesus, the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt and the discovery of Jesus in the Temple. To learn more we seek the wisdom and guidance of the Spirit. The Spirit leads us to understand that because the triune God is a communion of love, the family is its living reflection. St. Pope John Paul II said: ‘Our God in his deepest mystery is not solitude, but a family, for he has within himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love. That love, in the divine family is the Holy Spirit.’ The family is, then, a school of prayer, a school of service, a school of discipline, a school of formation, but most of all a school of love.
We thank God the Father for the Holy Family’s witness of love, we rejoice in the Son for the healing grace of salvation, and we give praise to the Holy Spirit whose love is poured out upon us so we can love and serve God in our families. The importance of the family has been the bulwark of Christian teaching since the beginning. It is the womb from which vocations are born, be that to the married or priestly of religious life. Jesus spent his hidden years deeply rooted in the day to day life of his family in Nazareth – here he learnt to love, serve and pray. Thank God for the family you were born into; each family member is a blessing and grace from God.