Homily for the feast of the Holy Family

Year A  -  Mt. 2:13-15 & 19-23


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Now when the wise men had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, «Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.»  And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called my son." (Os. 11:1)

"But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, «Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.»  And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.  And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, He shall be called a Nazarene."



Homily:


"Now when the wise men had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, «Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.»  And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt."

On the Sunday after Christmas, the Church celebrates a special feast consecrated to the Holy Family:  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  This is the model family!  A father, a mother, and a child.  Joseph, as we know, is only the putative father of Jesus - that is, everybody assumed him to be the true father of Jesus, because no one suspected otherwise:  "Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age.  He was, by repute, the son of Joseph . . ." (Luke 3:23)  As for Mary, no one ever doubted for a single instant that she was the mother of Jesus:  "Elisabeth exclaimed with a loud cry, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?' " (Luke 1:42-43)

It is Joseph, as father, who was responsible for watching over the holy family.  The angel of the Lord confirms this when he speaks directly to Joseph, telling him to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt:  "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt."  What an honor!  What a dignity was conferred by God upon this man, a descendant of David, but also of Adam and Eve like all other men and women!  But most of all, what a Mystery!  A man stained with original sin was charged with the care of the Saint of Saints and of the pure and immaculate Virgin!  Certainly Joseph never committed any personal sin, and all his intentions were always turned toward God and not toward creatures, but he was not exempt from the stain of the original sin.

"He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called my son." (Os. 11:1)"

Saint Matthew, throughout his gospel, wishes to demonstrate the fulfilment of the prophecies in the life of Jesus:  what the Prophets of the Old Covenant proclaimed was fully accomplished in Christ.  In this case, the prophet Hosea spoke of Israel, the son of God according to the faith of Abraham.  But the true son of God, he who fully realized the promise, made by God to Abraham, of an immense and numerous progeny, was Jesus, the Christ, in whom all believers are sons of God.  So, in applying this prophecy of Hosea to the return from Egypt, Saint Matthew proclaims the existence of this new family made up of all the believers in Christ; the parents of this family would be, mysteriously, Mary and Joseph!  Since Joseph and Mary preceded us in faith, they can be called our father and our mother in faith!

"But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, «Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.»  And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there."

The holy family went to Egypt under the command of the angel of the Lord, and returned under the same circumstances.  But Joseph didn't interpret the order of the angel without using his reason.  He was still a man -  that is, gifted with reason.  Even when God speaks to man through one of his servants, in this case an angel, man must still be man and continue to use his reason in carrying out Godís commands.  In this respect, Joseph is the model of Christian prudence!  Joseph went to Israel as the angel had commanded him, but he took into account what had been going on there, and so he did not return to the place of his departure, which was most probably Judea, but instead went to Galilee:  it was a place to which they could go and escape notice.  "Being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.  And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth."

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph:  the model family!  Nonetheless, this family underwent many hardships from the very beginning of its existence.  The family of Christ cannot take itself away from the Cross of its Master!  A Christian family must be ready to undergo troubles and vicissitudes of all kinds!  How could it be otherwise, since even the family of Jesus had to undergo these things?  However, after the Cross comes the Resurrection!  The family of God is that which lives with Christ, who died and rose again for it!  The true family of God is that which is constantly united to Christ, that which participates every Sunday in the eucharistic celebration!  Let us ask both Mary and Joseph to help us all to remain united to Christ and to each other!


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