When we celebrate the Holy Family of Nazareth, we meet them first in Bethlehem. This is why it is so appropriate to have this Solemnity today and not some other time of the year: because when God decided to become a member of the human family, he took a human mother, Mary, and a foster father, Joseph, and thus Himself experienced the ups and downs of family life and the subordination of being a child below one's parents. Because of this, God knew what it was like to obey imperfect creatures other than the Father. Let this be a reminder for all you children out there (regardless of your age): whenever we want to dismiss our parents, we should recall that we can't possibly be in a better position than the obedient Son of God, who had every reason to disregard His parents and do things His own way because “He knew better,” but He still obeyed them, so should do our best to fulfill the fourth commandment, except when it means to directly disobey God. If we do this, Sirach offers quite a list of promises for obedience to parents: Atonement from sin. Preservation from sin. Prayers heard. Stores up riches. Long life. Comfort to mother. House raised in justice against the debt of your sins.
Why do we call this family “holy”? This unique trio of Bethlehem and Nazareth, these three persons which were able to bring such abundant blessing to the entire human family regardless of the separation of time and place, is not “holy” by default. Our first instinct is wrong: having Jesus in your family doesn't make it a holy family. Every single Christian family has, by its very nature, Jesus present within the family because of their baptism. However, many parts of our family life can fail to be holy. So what makes us Holy? What makes these three holy? It is that we seek to carry out the Will of the Father by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, all through, with, and in the Son. In fact, the more we are devoted to the Father's Will, the better off the family is.
This makes more sense to us when we think of the contrast. Of course the possibilities are endless, but let us imagine a family where every person has a different goal in life: money, success, fame, absence of pain... you name it. Obviously this would cause the family to run in different and ultimately contrary directions, leading to misunderstanding, and potential distaste or even disdain for each other. Since God who is the triple-holy “Lord, God of Hosts” shows us that holiness is a communion of persons, the last word to be able to describe this fragmented family would be “holy.”
However, if there is a family where everyone is devoted to God's Will above all else, they could be homeless (financial failures), fugitives from the government, misunderstood and mocked by all their neighbors (social shame), and even perhaps publicly executed (all kinds of suffering), and still be a holy family. That is indeed what we find in the Holy Family, who by God's Will fled to Egypt, were rejected by their local townies, and later on were met with crucifixion. Although it may mean suffering, going against the current, or distress, the holiness that comes from following God's Will outweighs all of this: as St. Paul says, “the sufferings of this present life are as nothing compared to the glory that is to be revealed in us” on the day of Jesus Christ, that is, the Resurrection from the Dead.
What is God's Will for you? That you receive His Son, that you treasure His Son, that you follow, listen to, and obey His Son. Mary and Joseph, in their own unrepeatable way, did exactly this. Look at any artwork of the Holy Family and you will see them doing all these things, not to mention showing and sharing their Son with the world. God is calling you to know Christ and his cross as the center of your life, and thus find the source of blessings that the world cannot offer: deep peace, everlasting joy, and the holiness that sanctifies ourselves, our families, and our world. Mary and Joseph lived entirely for the Savior. May we do the same, and sanctify the world by our holy families.