We really do not know what happened in the thirty years before the Lord Jesus Christ‘s public ministry, how life was lived, what was said, how things were done, nor the specific relationships among the members of the Holy Family. However, we can tell from the Lord‘s own life, His personality, how He dealt with people, and the way He lived among the poor, forgotten, sinners who sought conversion, and the lower classes of society that the years of less known were crucial and foundation to who He was as Jesus of Nazareth. He cared for the poor, abandoned, and forgotten because He knew how to live with little. He valued relationships because the relationships in His “time of silence” gave value and formed Him in very intimate and personal ways.
The Holy Family is the model for all families to follow. Nevertheless, while it is easy to admire them, many of us have not taken the time to imitate and emulate their way of life. Have we taken the time to nourish, spend time well as to care, love, pray, and grow our very own family? Have we tried our best to help our family to become more mature and committed to the life of faith?
I remembered when I was living with my paternal grandparents, I disliked our nightly Rosary sessions — and in the same way, going to Mass. I would always fall asleep at some points, and at times, thought that I could find something better to do. Yet, because I was not given a choice except to follow the family’s spiritual disciplines, I later learned much about prayers. My grandparents’ choices and lifestyle taught me that we do not stop believing or praying just because we do not feel like it. We learn to persevere, keep on trying, and remain faithful with the best that we can! The life of faith is not just for us when we feel like it, it is based on our consistent, faithful, and disciplined spiritual exercises and will to seek God at all times. I have learned through my grandparents, and later through spiritual direction, “If you keep your prayers, your prayers will keep you!” They taught me spiritual tenacity and perseverance.
It is so easy to treat our house as a place to return and rest, but we have not taken the effort to make it into a home where our family can belong and where members are called to be holy. Too many people have missed the opportunities to break bread, eat, spend time to talk and listen, share and receive each other from the heart, and especially to pray with and for one another. A home is not just a building or a place! It is the hearth where one feels he or she belongs, loved, and respected. A home is where each member is welcomed, wanted, and cared for. Therefore, in order to truly create a home, we need to spend time to listen and able to talk with one another from the heart, knowing that the Lord is in our midst and we are put there for one another. If we are spending more time on work, the field, activities, appointments, and other things, we really have not taken the time to make our house into a true home. If we are only worrying about living our dreams, achieving our goals, and get to do what we want, we might have a supportive group of people around us, but we do not have a family.
This is why we have seen more lonely elderly people at care facilities without their family visiting them. Everyone just seems to be too busy to spend time with one another, especially in forgetting the easily forgotten or hard to like at times! We have not allowed one another to grow older with grace because we are constantly busy chasing everything and anything that occupies us for a short time. Since we have not taken the time to create and know where home is, we oftentimes allow ourselves to be defined by what we have achieved or done by focusing on how to reach what we want without knowing who we are and why life is worth living. Sadly, we have become so focused on the “how” and the “what” that we lost focus on who we are, why life is worth living because who are around us, who gives us life, who cares for us, and who will stay with us when things fall apart.
We lose meaning and joy in life when we cannot feel the “high” of being productive or needed because we never have taken the time to understand why life is worth living. Too many of us only cared to judge ourselves on what we can do and how to achieve what we want instead of who we truly are and why we are called to live in faith! In other words, we have lost sight of our theocentric mission and purpose… and that is why we cannot simply be. We are so scared of being ourselves or alone that we constantly have to do something to occupy our lives with busyness. Ironically, this creates so much loneliness for many, because we have more “friends” and “followers” on social media, more ways to communicate in the modern world, people to support us, we remain (more) disconnected and homeless because we never felt belonged anywhere.
What is sad is that we have left many of our family members to die in loneliness because we have been disconnected from them since we have been too busy with life. When a person passed away, many ended up being caught off guard! Many cannot come to terms with death because they were never ready for it. They have spent the time to “live” but never know why it is worth living. Too many have not taken the time to prepare and get themselves ready for eternity, hence that is why they are scared of death. We no longer want to talk about mortality, divine judgment, or eternal life anymore because we only want to fake the “celebration of life” on earth without preparing for eternity. Ironically, this makes us spiritually homeless because we never really know who we are and where we belong.
The Fourth Commandment reminds us to honor our parents! The Book of Sirach, like many writings in the Sacred Scriptures, reminds us that: “Whoever honors his father, when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother. My son takes care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten…” (cf. 3:2-14)
As a matter of fact, when I was younger, I always wanted to make sure that I spoke my mind and let my parents know what I really thought as to win the argument or verbal battle. As I have gotten older, I realized that there are many battles in life, and I do not have to pick or fight every one of them. Many times, we think we need to put our little piece into every single instance, and we have wasted so much time trying to be right! With our family and the people around us, when was the last time we are able to just receive, love, and accept them as they are able to be for us instead of expecting what they have to be according to our standards? When was the last time we actually take the time to give thank, care, and give our parents filial respect and obedience in recognizing the sacrifices that they have made for us — even in their imperfect and limited ways — instead of being frustrated by how they have not lived up to our standards?
Furthermore, St. Paul reminds us in his Letter to the Colossians to “put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. All over these put on love, that is the bond of perfection. And the let the peace of Christ controls your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.” (cf. 3:12-21) Please remember that it is love that holds all the other qualities like compassion, forgiveness, peace, and gratitude together. God‘s love for us is the model for human parentage, and Christ‘s devotion to the Church is the model for the spouses. We are redeemed, saved, and chose by the Almighty; therefore, this awareness of who we are invites and challenges us to behave as His people. We are called to do, be, and share everything in the name of the Lord.
Even though the Holy Family of St. Joseph, Mother Mary, and the Lord Jesus had little, they had each other. Even though the different Gospel accounts tell us how much trials, hardships, and sufferings tests, instabilities, and uncertainties they had to face, they were always a family and had a home in one another. They chose to be a family in the midst of all life’s trials and hardships. Their love for one another and obedient to the Heavenly Father‘s will made them holy and life-giving. I hope our families are the same.
I hope we can imitate and emulate the Holy Family in our very own little family life. May we seek to create a home where our family can return, belong, and look forward to coming home to every day. May we sanctify our family by helping each other become more holy, in alignment with God‘s will, and genuinely caring for one another, because “a family that prays together, stays together.”