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Look it up: Recognizing holy families


Catholic News Service

            Although church tradition is rich in stories about the Holy Family, including stories of the Blessed Mother Mary’s childhood with her parents Joachim and Anne, there are only a few accounts in the Gospels that mention the family life of Jesus, Joseph and Mary. What we do have appears in Chapters 1 and 2 of the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke.

            Here we find the familiar stories of Jesus’ birth, the visit of the Magi, the flight into Egypt to escape the murderous King Herod and Jesus getting left behind in the Temple when he was 12 years old. Nowhere do these stories describe the life of the Holy Family other than the brief passage in Luke 2:51 that says that Jesus was obedient to his parents.

            But while the Gospel accounts are not explicit, one can easily see there the values Mary and Joseph lived by and passed along to Jesus. This was certainly a home filled with the love for and devotion to God. Both Mary and Joseph were devout — they prayed and went to Jerusalem to worship — and they taught Jesus to do the same.

            Mary and Joseph were certain to know the stories of their faith and families and passed them on to Jesus. Remember that Jesus at 12 years old sat among his elders with confidence and engaged in learned debate.

            He had been raised well to know and live his faith as part of a proud family, and Scripture says that Jesus “advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Lk 2:52).

            One can imagine Jesus listening to Joseph and Mary as they read and discussed the Torah. Similarly, one can imagine Jesus learning to care for the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked — all part of the Jewish tradition — from watching his parents and relatives do the same.

            Jesus was brave in proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom, even if doing so cost him his life. Certainly he learned this from the courageous Mary — who accepted God’s call to be the Mother of God — and the brave Joseph, who took as a wife a pregnant woman carrying a child not biologically his own, and did everything in his power to protect and nurture them.

            Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of Love,” notes that in the family we find “a home filled with the presence of God, common prayer and every blessing,” and a “place where children are brought up in the faith” (No. 15-16). He says that families play the critical role of passing on to children the important stories of God’s love and mercy for us.

            In the family “one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous — even repeated — forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer” (No. 86). The family, the pope writes, is “a vital cell for transforming the world” (No. 324).

            The Holy Family serves as the ideal example for all families as to how to do this.