Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
God didn’t come to earth on a cloud amid trumpet blasts with angels leading the way. Instead he became a human being and was born into the world in a family, where Joseph and Mary received him with love and nourished him and raised him and taught him what he needed to know to succeed in life.
So the Holy Family has become for Christians the model family, one to be imitated by other families. And yet, Mary and Joseph and Jesus were an ordinary family in almost every way. Joseph was a carpenter who passed his trade onto his son. In fact, they were so ordinary that later when people wanted to question Jesus’ identity as a prophet and miracle worker they asked is this not the carpenter’s son? (Mt 13.55) How could an ordinary man from such an ordinary family get all this wisdom?
The Holy Family had their share of misunderstandings and problems between them. St. Luke tells us about Jesus staying behind in the Temple (Lk 2.41-52), when his parents had started their journey back to Nazareth. After they found him, Mary asked him with tears in her eyes, no doubt:
“Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
What makes the Holy Family the model family for us is not that everything was always perfect between them, but that somehow they learned how to work through their problems and reconcile with each other. As God planned to save the world through a family, he also saves us by means of our families, through our daily joys and struggles, misunderstandings and reconciliations.
—Fr. Tim Howe, SJ, is president of St. Xavier High School, in Cincinnati, OH.
Lord, we can see in you the same tension that we sometimes feel — to follow your call as well as to please the important people in our lives. We also identify with the anxiety of Mary and Joseph, seeking their lost boy and both relieved and angry when you are found in the Temple.
Discovering our purpose and parenting children have similarities.We need to lean on your grace to guide our efforts; we can’t do this alone. We can expect disappointments along the way. It is inevitable. But out of the uncertainties and the consistency of the search, we will be transformed and arrive at a life-giving acceptance and triumph as we place our lives before you.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team