Feast of the Holy Family
December 29, 2019
At a family reunion some years ago, I was struck by the physical resemblances among my family members. The facial characteristics of some of the older folks there were visible in some the younger members. I wondered too, whether the values which motivated my immigrant ancestors to come to America some 150 years ago were still present in my family today.
Today’s Gospel, from Matthew’s account of Christ’s infancy, shows us a family grappling with a crisis. Joseph has to take Mary and Jesus to safety to avoid the clutches of King Herod, who seeks the child’s life. Scripture scholars tell us that there’s meaning below the story’s surface. Matthew is reflecting on Old Testament references which lead us to see Jesus as the “new Moses” and the “new Israel.” The story of the Israelite slaves leaving Egypt for freedom in the Promised Land would have appealed to Matthew’s audience. They were most probably a Christian community struggling to focus its new identity in relation to its Jewish origins.
Our American religious experience is also rooted in family origins: our ancestors who struggled to keep the faith as oppressed slaves, impoverished immigrants, persecuted minorities. Knowing where we’ve come from and keeping ourselves rooted in Christ and his mission can help us weather any crisis.