How large is the Holy Family? (A reflection by Fr. Ogoe, based on 1John 3:1)

 

When Jesus came into the world, he revealed the Father to us. This revelation of the fatherhood of God makes all the difference in Christianity. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If so, then God is family. The Lord further revealed that he came to save us from our sins so that we might become adopted children of God. John puts it beautifully: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are” (1Jn 3:1). In other words, at his Incarnation, the Son of God became part of our human family that we might become part of his divine family. Wonderful gift of salvation! Thanks to Christ we know God is a family; we also know God has joined the human family and made us join his. John Paul II has rightly said that “by his Incarnation, he, the son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man” (Cf. Redemptor hominis, 8, 1979). And we can add that, by the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Divine Family (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) has united himself to every human family.

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ. Christ, we know, was born of the Virgin Mary into a human family. This fact is the basis of the annual liturgical celebration of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. So, how big is the Holy Family? That is the topic of our reflection today. How big is the Holy Family? Is it twelve, or twenty or thirty? Or is it three? Well, let us count. If you count Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the answer is simple: three. That is mathematically correct. But is that all? Is it a satisfactory answer to the question “How big is the Holy Family?” To arrive at the “real size” of the Holy Family, we need to bear in mind the following: There is something about the Holy Family that makes it a normal human family. You have a husband and a wife, and their child. But there also is something about this family which makes is absolutely unique and unrepeatable. Of the three members of this human family, the Child is God, his mother is ever-Virgin, and Joseph is not his biological father. We realize then that the Holy Family has very interesting characteristics. One of the members is fully human, but he is also God. The mother of the Child conceived him without the sexual co-operation of her husband. The human and the divine, therefore, met to create the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It is a human family alright, but it is absolutely unique because it is in some way a family of the divine and the human. It is a family in which God is a family member of man, and man is a family member of God. God and man become one family. Wow! Isn’t that amazing?

 

To form the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the biological laws of nature were absolutely defied. It completely transcends our human capacity to imagine that in a certain truly human family, one of the members is God. What is God telling us about the Holy Family? We have to return to the topic of our reflection. How big is the Holy Family? Given the characteristic which we have pointed out, we are inclined to believe that the “real size” of the Holy Family cannot be limited by a purely mathematical answer, based solely on a nuclear family (or even, extended family) understanding of the Holy Family. By God’s Son choosing to be a member of the Holy Family, he, in a way, drew every human family to himself. Jesus’ family transcends all boundaries set by blood relations. Yes, the Holy Family is three persons, but by virtue of the Christian’s relationship with Christ, he is in some sense a member of the Holy Family too. It is three, and counting. The Gospel of Mark says: “And his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother” (3:31-35). By saying this, Jesus literally defined family to include all believers. Moreover, we recall that in Luke 2:44, when Jesus was “lost”

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is open to the believer. It is his family too. He is welcome to the family and can always feel at home. The Holy Family is big; it is big enough to include all those who believe in Christ. As we celebrate the Holy Family, let every family also ask themselves: “How big is my family?” “Is it open to welcome new members, or it is too closed and exclusive?” Jesus’ idea of family is not a closed one. Just as the Holy Family does not close with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, so are we all called to rethink our idea of family. God wants families to imitate the Holy Family in many ways. One way to do that is to learn to open our families to others, to fellowship with them, and be willing to increase the size of our family even beyond biological, ethnic, and racial lines. If we do that, we also become “Holy Family”.

Prayer:

Father, I thank you for making me your child. Pour your Spirit upon me. Open my eyes to see my fellow believers as my family, that together we might praise you with one heart and one voice. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen

 

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Stephen

Motivationa speaker and spiritual teacher.

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