God among us in our family

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul

Feast of the Holy Family, 29 December 2019

Sirach 3:2-7, 12-14 ><}}}*> Colossians 3:12-21 ><}}}*> Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

One of the many bas reliefs at the Cavern Church complex in Cairo, Egypt where the Holy Family fled to escape Herod’s wrath when he ordered the murder of all male children below three years old after learning from the Magi the birth of the “new king of the Jews”.

Among the celebrations during this Christmas Season, the Feast of the Holy Family is something peculiar because it was not borne out of liturgical origins but more of the changing times in the past 126 years since it was first celebrated as a devotion.

In the beginning, it was designed to counteract the growing attacks against family life and morality of the rapidly changing times.

Since 1969 when Vatican II designated its feast to be celebrated within the Christmas octave, the feast of the Holy Family has proven to be a major contribution in helping us understand the mystery of the Lord’s nativity in our modern time.

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, so that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, out of Egypt I called my son.

Matthew 2:13-15
A diptych mosaic depicting the story of the flight to Egypt of the Holy Family on the walls of the Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Church in Cairo, Egypt beside the Cavern Church. It is one of the oldest churches in Egypt that dates back to the third century.

Christmas, a living story continuing in our family

The feast of the Holy Family reminds us that Christmas is a living story that continues to this day wherein God comes first in and through our family.

We go back to Matthew’s gospel to hear again the important role of Joseph not only in taking Mary as his wife in order to give name to Jesus but also to protect them from all harm.

We have seen during Christmas how Jesus had always been subjected to suffering right in his mother’s womb when Joseph and Mary have to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem to comply with Augustus Caesar’s directive to all subjects of the empire to register.

Now, they have to travel outside Israel to flee to another country to escape the murderous plot of Herod against Baby Jesus.

We have heard again the continuation of Joseph’s mission revealed again to him by an angel in a dream. But, Matthew added something very interesting that is the key to understanding our gospel today and our feast of the Holy Family.

He (Joseph) stayed there until the death of Herod, so that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, out of Egypt I called my son.

Matthew 2:15
Entrance to the Cavern Church where the Holy Family lived for about three years while in Egypt before going back to Israel.

Remember Matthew’s audience and followers were Christians of Jewish origins.

The Holy Family’s flight to Egypt is very similar to the story of Jacob’s migration into that country during the great famine when one of his sons, Joseph the dreamer, became a governor there.

Many years later, the Egyptians would make them suffer that God sent them Moses to bring them back to the Promised Land through Exodus that has become the single most important date in their entire history. Also known as the “passover”, it was at that time when Israel passed over from slavery in Egypt into freedom in the Promised Land.

But, the result was not favorable because after settling back into the Promised Land, the people would repeatedly break God’s covenant by worshipping foreign gods and idols that eventually led to their Babylonian exile, not to mention the division of the kingdom into two after David’s death.

By citing a prophecy by Hosea, Matthew is now telling us how Jesus, the Son of God, is the new beginning of fidelity to the covenant. Like Moses, God took out Jesus from Egypt; but greater than Moses and unlike him, Jesus would never be unfaithful to the covenant.

As the new beginning not only for Israel but also for the whole world, Jesus in fact passed us over from sin to grace with his own passover or pasch – his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Welcoming Jesus in our family through our love and care for each member

The family is the basic unit of every society. Destroy the family, we destroy the society. Eventually, we destroy our nation.

The same is true with us in the Church: the family is a domestic church. Jesus comes first in our family.

But how can he now come when our family is disintegrating, when it is right in the family where women and children are first abused?

How can Jesus come in our family when we have lost all senses of the holy, of God that we no longer pray and gather together in the Sunday Mass and other sacraments?

See how the giant flatscreen has become every family’s altar and deity, replacing the Christ the King or any other Poon in our homes. Malls have replaced our places of worship. Worst of all, the great feasts and seasons of Christmas and Easter have become so commercialized, reduced to become our modern excuses for much needed breaks and supposed family bonding in beaches and abroad.

The Holy Family’s flight to Egypt brought them closer with one another and most especially with God. Unfortunately, our own “flight to Egypt” has become our excuse to leave God behind and focus more with our own lives.

A portion of a larger mix of bronze reliefs on one of the doors of the Duomo Cathedral in Florence, Italy depicting the harsh conditions the Holy Family have to face in Egypt while escaping Herod. Photo by Ms. Janine Lloren, 2015.

A friend had shared this photo with me which she had taken while on a trip in Italy, home to thousands of our OFW’s who, like the Holy Family, have to leave our country to find life, to escape “death”.

Like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, God “sends” us out to our own, different “flight to Egypt”, pulling us out from the comforts of our family and home, career and other comfort zones in order to gather ourselves so we can start anew in Christ to be more free to love and be faithful to him and our loved ones.

Many times in our lives, separations and other adversarial situations make us better persons, enabling us to be more fruitful in life than just having everything for granted and so easily.

The adversarial conditions the child Jesus have experienced very early on – from his birth to early childhood in Egypt – strike many similarities with our situations today.

It is hoped that with this Feast of the Holy Family, we may be reawakened again with our sense of mission in bringing Jesus Christ more present especially when life is threatened, when persons are denied of justice and freedom.

May the first and second readings remind us that every relationship we have here on earth, starting in our families must always be based on our relationship with God our Father. Amen.

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