This past week after Christmas, I wandered into a neighboring parish and walked in to pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. The lights were off except for one spotlight over the tabernacle. Now since I've served at this church before, I turned on the dimmer over the sanctuary where the manger was. I spent a few minutes in quiet all alone in the church then a father walked in with his two small children. Without prompting, his daughter, who could not have been more than four, walked up to the manger, knelt down, and stretched her tiny little body to give baby Jesus a kiss. I smiled because she could only have learned this at home from her family. This is what we celebrate today: the gift of family. This gift of family is so important to God that he chose to be born into one.
Not much is known about the life of the Holy Family and their time in Nazareth except what he hear at the end of today's gospel: "And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man (Luke 2:52)." It is there where Joseph and Mary molded him into the man we would read about later in the gospels. In 1964, during a homily on the Feast of the Holy Family, Pope Paul VI said:
"The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus - the school of the Gospel. First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us. . . A lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character..."
Now the last thing we think of when we think of family life is silence. Yet, it is in the silence of the house of Nazareth that Jesus learned how to be a just man like Joseph, where he learned to pray like his mother, and where he forged that unbreakable bond with his Heavenly Father. God places us in a family to learn from one another, to grow together in holiness, and to help each other achieve salvation. That is why the words of St. Paul to the Colossians in the second reading are so important when it comes to family life because we do need compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience. If we exhibited more of these sacred traits then our families wouldn't be in the dire straights they are today and as a result society wouldn't be suffering as it is because of the deterioration of the family. Pope Paul said it well 48 years ago when he said the family had a sacred and inviolable character. We cannot let family be redefined by society nor can we let it's importance be minimized by society.
Every summer, I sit with one of my former students to talk about life and pretty much everything under the sun. He has a brilliant mind and like most of my former students in college or graduate school struggles with his faith, has his doubts, but tries to live a good life because he comes from a very strong family that has molded him into the man that he is today. Our talks are marathons that can stretch on for hours, and it is somewhat humbling to go toe to toe with a former student to argue about morality, theology, and philosophy. One day, the subject of family came up, and he gave me this simple, modern, yet wonderful definition: "[Family] gives you the moral foundation you will use to navigate the world before you have the capacity to develop your own...[this] early network of love makes adult life in society possible." Moral foundation. Early network of love. I felt like telling him: "you are not far for the kingdom of God."
We must look to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as our moral foundation of what our families should be like and as examples of the ultimate network of love. It is that love that gave us so wonderful a Redeemer. May we imitate constantly their example so that society may be overwhelmed by the love that emanates from our homes and from the silence of Nazareth.