The Institute for Christian Formation
The Feast of the Holy Family of
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
December 27, 2015

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Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  This is the second major feast of the Christmas Season.  The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas (December 25-January 1), except in years when both December 25 and January 1 fall on a Sunday.  Then the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on December 30.

The Gospel proclaimed on this feast in Cycle C (our current Sunday Lectionary Cycle for this Year of Grace 2016) is the story of the Boy Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52).
If you live with family or in community, spend quality time together on this Feast of the Holy Family.  In today’s society, it is not unusual for people to live under the same roof, and rarely see each other or communicate.  Families have been observed sitting in the same room, yet each family member is in their own technological world of texting, surfing the internet, glued to a television, listening to their ipod with earphones, or playing a solitary video
Whatever your lifestyle – single, married, parent, grandparent, widow or widower – always strive to live an authentic life, with Christ at the center. However you define your family or network, this is the task of a Christian each day of the year, not just on the Feast of the Holy Family.  We are each called to live a holy life, whatever our circumstances.  And each family, however it is configured, is called to be a holy family!

Those who are engaged or married will find the “For Your Marriage” web site of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to be a good resource.  There is an English language site, and a Spanish language site.  You can also download a good article about "The Christian Family and the Evangelization of Children" here.
This Gospel passage begins by telling us that every year Jesus's parents traveled up to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. In  our Gospel for today, they once again made this trip with Jesus, who is now twelve years old.  In that day and age, this journey to Jerusalem would have taken place in the context of a caravan traveling together.  When the caravan was returning home, Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was not with the group, and returned to the Temple in Jerusalem where after three days they found Jesus in the midst of the teachers in the temple.  Our Gospel today concludes by telling us that Jesus returned to his home in Nazareth with his parents, where he was obedient and grew up in his family.

This is the first time we hear of Jesus, in the Scriptures, since he was forty days old at his Presentation in the Temple, and then returned to Nazareth with his parents. And today's Gospel, when Jesus is 12 years old, is the last we  will  hear  of him in Scripture until he is an 
game.  Why not put a ban on this type of technology for today?  Plan a nice meal, and prepare it together.  Set your table using the good tableware, and sit down together for a leisurely dinner.

After dinner, go Christmas Caroling in your neighborhood as a family. (You can download the scores to some Christmas Carols below.)  Do you have relatives close by who are living alone?  Invite them to join you.  Are there single people in your neighborhood?  What about elderly people who have no relatives close by?  Invite them, as well. Or if they can’t get out to go caroling, make sure to stop by their homes to serenade them with a carol or two! Expand your family circle to be inclusive of those who cannot share this feast with their own family.

Christmas Carols to Download (Just click on the title to download the score.)
After caroling, invite all the carolers to come back to your home for hot chocolate and cookies.  You could even serve panettone, the traditional Italian Christmas bread.  You can buy this in many stores at Christmastime, or you can bake it yourself.  Here is one recipe, and here is one place you could purchase bakeable paper panettone pans. (You could even bake some miniature panettones to drop off at homes where you are caroling.) If you do make/serve panetonne, gather the children around and read them the story of “Tony’s Bread” by Tomie dePaola, which is a legend about panettone!
James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). Jesus Among the Doctors (Jésus parmi les docteurs), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 8 15/16 x 6 9/16 in. (22.7 x 16.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.40
adult and begins his public ministry.  The Scriptures do not give us any details of the intervening years in the life of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. They most likely shared the same joys, sorrows, ups, and downs that all families experience. Being devout Jews, their Jewish faith would have been a major factor in their lifestyle as they lived faith daily in their home, keeping the feasts and seasons of the Jewish year.  What do you think life was like for Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in those early years in Nazareth?  Do you think life was easier for families at that time, as compared to now, or more difficult?  Why?

You can find out more about what the Church documents say about the Finding in the Temple, and the "hidden life" of Jesus, here.   Children can find a script to act out this story here and can access a coloring page here.  And remember that "The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple" is the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.  You can find a reflection on this mystery here.
In our Gospel today, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph have traveled to Jerusalem for their annual pilgrimage for the feast of Passover.  Has your family ever made a pilgrimage?  Why not plan a family pilgrimage to one of the Catholic Shrines in our country or around the world during this Year of Mercy?  You could also visit the parish where you were baptized and/or your diocesan Cathedral.