jesus, mary and joseph!!

there is no perfect family. but there is a holy family!

while most of us can name wonderful and touching stories from our own familial experiences, we can also name instances when we have been hurt by members of our family. sometimes the deepest wounds comes from the actions or words of those we have lived with. we bring our imperfect humanity to all our relationships.

my parents used an expression of exasperation– often spurred my own mischievous indiscretions. i did not know what the expression meant but i knew what it felt like. they would let out a “mar-yo-sep” or at times “sus…mar-yo-sep.” it was only much later that i found out that they were invoking mary and joseph– at times (je)sus mary and joseph. i think it was a regional northern philippine expression. but the sentiment was universal. when we don’t know what to say, we invoke the holy family!

we need jesus, mary and joseph– especially when family frustrates us! today, is the feast of the Holy Family. as a family, they are holy not perfect.

the gospel at mass today is jesus being presented by mary and joseph to God (luke 2: 22-40). the action shows mary and joseph’s to follow the God’s law. the presentation also the foretells jesus’ destiny through simeon’s touching and gently powerful prophecy:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”
luke 2: 29-32

mary and joseph, by doing their ritual duty as parents for their first born received the surprise of their lives. the child jesus is a blessing not only for them but for the whole world.

i believe that when we offer ourselves and others to God blessing follows. usually the blessings are so subtle that they go unnoticed. at times, we know them in our hearts. these self-giving encounters with God are exchanges of love. in our faith, we participate in them through the sacraments. but the Spirit is not only in the sacraments– we can know this love dynamic in various acts of self giving. at their best, parents teach this love through their actions. through it all, the Spirit helps and guides us.

ultimately, this love comes at a cost: mary will have a sword pierce her (heart). at the foot of the cross, she will see her son suffer and die a violent death. the cross becomes the symbol of ironic love.

how many mothers in our world experience their own children’s suffering? mary knows…

mary and joseph helped form jesus during his developmental years to be ready for his public ministry. since there is little written about these hidden years of jesus, we can only imagine. but what made them the holy family was both their desire to do God’s will and the following actions. hearing the word of God and observing it is not only for mary but for us. these will and actions shaped the baby, child and adolescent jesus: “the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him”. (v 40).

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the Spirit invites all families to their own unique holiness. since we are not jesus, mary and joseph, we live in families that are both holy and sinful. mary and joseph show us a pattern to strive toward hearing God’s word and acting upon it. all parents will be imperfect through it all. and even when the right steps are followed, it may feel like a sword is piercing their hearts like it did in mary.

for us, there is a dance between the holy and the sinful in our families. we need mary and joseph’s prayers are we strive to be like jesus and give birth to Christ in our world today.

let us offer a prayer to the holy family by pope francis:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendor of true love,
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division:
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer.


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