The Christmas season is above all a family celebration. Overseas relatives and contract workers make it a point to come home at this time of the year to celebrate Christmas with the family. The most joyous moment of the season is definitely the Christmas midnight’s nochebuena, when all the family members gather at table. The Church has wisely placed the feast of the Holy Family in the context of the Christmas season in order to highlight the importance of the family. So important is the family that God himself entrusted his only Son, not to a monastery or to a seminary, but to a family.
The family was created by God to be the mirror of God himself and the expression of the Trinitarian life–unity and love despite differences: “God created man in his image… male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). The family provides all our basic needs: food, clothing, education, etc. In the bosom of the family we get our first experience God’s love through the love and care of our parents.
Indeed, we are the product of our family. If we experience love and affection in our childhood, we grow up to be loving individuals; but if we experience rejection, violence and abuse at home, we grow up to be violent and abusive ourselves. It is statistically proven that most cases of juvenile delinquency can be traced to an unhealthy family life.
Today, the Holy Family is presented to us as our model. Being a “holy” family and having God’s only Son among its members, we might think that the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus enjoyed a peaceful and blissful kind of life. Not at all. What we see is a family beset by problems and trials, bigger perhaps than those experienced by ordinary families. Being close to God and to God’s Son doesn’t mean being exempt from trials. On the contrary, the closer we are to the Lord, the greater our share in his sufferings.
Many families today are going through painful crises and broken relationships. Each family, of course, has a story of its own to tell. However, there are certain factors which are frequently observed in most broken marriages. For instance, many among the young no longer believe in life-long relationships. The expression “until death do us part” scares them. They rather make their commitment “until further notice.” That’s hardly the way to build a strong family life.
Economic or financial factors play also an important role in the deterioration of the family. Parents are forced to look for greener pastures abroad; but in the process they find, very often, greener partners. Besides, leaving small children to be raised by the lola or the yaya hardly contributes to the strengthening of family life. Material wellbeing is a legitimate pursuit for married couples, of course. However, it is no guarantee of happiness. Children need, and want, more than money. They look for care, affection and quality time from their parents.
Little or no communication is another weakening factor in the family. The intrusion of communication gadgets into our homes has paradoxically weakened or lessened communication among the family members; each member has his/her own TV set, laptop, tablet, cellphone, i-pad, etc., and is busy talking to somebody from outside the family.
Most importantly, there is no time for prayer in common. Gone are the days when the family members gathered around the altar in the evening to pray the rosary. Now, leaving God out of family affairs can only result in loss of family values. Parents should learn from Mary and Joseph to lead their children to the Lord.
In this year of the Family and the Holy Eucharist, let’s commend to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph all our families, in particular those that are going through difficulties and trials, that they may draw strength and inspiration from the Holy Family of Nazareth and from Jesus, the living bread.