Gospel reflection: A Family Worth Mirroring
By Ryan Browne
“Mary said to Jesus, ‘My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’”
Worried and fearful parents, at the thought of their lost child. This is a scene that is all too familiar. Mary and Joseph were no different in this regard. When they lost Jesus, they began to panic and worry endlessly for their son Jesus. Upon finding him they are relieved, but also angry: “Why have you done this to us?” Mary says to Jesus. The emotions in today’s Gospel are similar to our own experiences as parents, or as children.
The Gospel on today’s Feast of the Holy Family presents us with a glimpse into the family life of Jesus. So, let’s take a moment to reflect on our own experiences of family life: the good and the bad. Think especially of those moments when you were reprimanded by your parents. That time you ran away in the shops. That time you didn’t return home from school on time. Or that time you didn’t carry out your parents wishes.
The comparisons between today’s Gospel and our own lives are incredible.
Why is this the case?
Surely God the Father desired the perfect family for His Son?
It’s because God desired to dwell in our human realities, not in a lofty perfection. Having celebrated the solemnity of Christmas yesterday, we are faced today with the reality of Jesus’ human experience. He dwelt in the same institution that we all experience – the family. The family, with its joys, pleasures, miseries and difficulties. The family is a complex institution, an institution which the world depends on for its survival.
No family situation is perfect. Even if a family may have the components of a perfect life, there will always be quiet challenges. A family may be happy, wealthy and flourishing. In all this, there will be challenges that can only be known and understood in the family home.
The Holy Family, which we venerate today, is not perfect because they did not have challenges. It is perfect because it is an authentic family. It is a human family! It is a faithful family! Mary and Joseph despair with Jesus in today’s Gospel, simply because they love Him and didn’t want Him to be harmed. What may at first seem like despair or anger, in fact, comes from a place of loving care.
So, whatever your family situation is today – strong, happy, broken, or miserable - let’s look to the Holy Family. That family that God chose to dwell in. That sacred family through whom God dwells close to us in the complexity of our own families. The Holy Family shows us that to be a good and holy family, we need only be faithful in our love to God and our own families.
Ryan Browne, from Bournemouth, England, is a seminarian studying at the Venerable English College in Rome, in his first year of theology.