26 December 2020
26 Dec 2020

Family: real and sacred

by  André Vital Félix da Silva, scj bishop

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The Feast of the Holy Family is very well inserted in the Eighth of Christmas, because it highlights the truth of the Incarnation, that is, God assumed our human condition and therefore entered the world as each one of us, being born into a family.  The family is not a simple gathering of people who share some common things, but the family is the realization of God’s plan to guarantee the dignity and fulfillment of life. Born into a human family, the Son of God consolidated this project of the Father. Every child born witnesses that the family is not an option among others to have life, but is the fundamental condition for this life to have dignity, respect and reach fullness.

To say that the family is a project of God is not a romantic discourse or even a disincarnated idealism, because the family of Nazareth was not an ideal family free of difficulties and sufferings, but a family that assumed the truth of all that is proper to it, that is why it has become the referential family, because in it the most fundamental reality of the family as a divine institution (and not only cultural construction) is highlighted.

The scene reported in today’s Gospel highlights three inspiring situations so that a family life, real and concrete, can be consolidated and realized as God’s project for the good of people and society.

 

1.Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord“: in this gesture we see not only a case-by-case fulfillment of the Law, but first of all, it witnesses a basic truth of human existence. To take Jesus to the Temple means that this son, even though he is theirs (natural for Mary, and legitimate for Joseph), is not a possession of the parents. To bear a child is not to acquire an object; to give birth to a life is not simply to increase the number of beings in the world, but to conceive a child and assume it is to accept a mission, a true priesthood, because to care for, to love the human being created in the image and likeness of God, is the highest cult that can be rendered to the Creator. To offer to the Lord is to recognize that everything is His. On the other hand, as the human being appropriates goods, people, considering them his own in a despotic way, isolating them from their true Lord, then the great threats to life arise: ideological manipulation deforming the original sense of existence, slave domination that stratifies human beings into superiors and inferiors, thus destroying the mother cell of society and the fundamental condition for all human beings, that is, universal brotherhood.

The family is the first altar where the best is offered to its members and to Him who has also offered Himself to us and for us. Jesus presented in the Temple, as the fruit of a family, teaches us that without self-giving, selfless surrender, the family is disfigured and becomes only a cluster of selfish people who demand each other, digressing themselves, because they are incapable of recognizing that each person’s life is a gift from God and not simply an occasion for an inhuman and destructive utilitarianism of relationships.

2.The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him“: every human life has a dynamism that is permanently renewed, it is the vital energy that drives the course of existence, as well as family life. Being in awe in front of life is a sign that we are plunging ever more into its deepest dimension. When family relationships become a routine, where the other is no longer seen as a source of inspiration and renewal, the charm of living together is lost. You have nothing else to receive or offer. Mary and Joseph spent their entire family life surprising themselves with their Son, the great novelty of the Father in the realization of his loving project of giving life in fullness to his creatures par excellence. The people, when they witnessed Jesus’ words and attitudes, were also amazed and delighted in all this. To lose the enchantment of family life, when one has nothing good to say about the other, transforms the home into a sepulcher, where silence bothers the heart and speech irritates the minds.

3.The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him”. A family that closes selfishly in its small world is about to waste, become mediocre and disappear. Couples who instead of a married life choose to live together between two selfish people who just want to enjoy life, preventing it from flourishing and, therefore, consider that their children take away their freedom and limit their possibilities of pleasure and happiness, betrayed the project entrusted to them, because they enjoy the immediate pleasures of the conjugal relationship, but do not give themselves generously in the construction of humanity, with their most precious fruits, even if it is necessary to go to the Temple to offer sacrifices.

 

Celebrating the Holy Family is not an alienating and naive sigh in the face of a society that insists on wanting to convince that the family is a bankrupt and outdated institution. But, motivated by faith, we renew the certainty that life is the most precious gift that came out of the Father’s hands and placed in ours to offer it with great gratitude, and the best way to do it is to commit ourselves to the family wanted by God and for which his Son gave his life.

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