The modern world in which we live exalts freedom and so the world does not like the word ‘law’. The word ‘law’ conjures up for us a whole series of uncomfortable feelings centred around the concept of unjust restrictions. The term ‘law’ however has other connotations, one of which is to point in the correct direction. When we follow the law, we go in the appropriate direction.
I thought about that as I read the Gospel presented to us for our meditation on this the Feast of the Holy Family because the phrase “as required by the Law of the Lord” is a refrain which is repeated four times during the narrative. What is important for us though is the result of Mary and Joseph’s doing what the law required. We are told: “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.”
The law of the Church tells us that marriage is a partnership of every aspect of life ordained (directed) to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children. This education is not simply or more importantly the obtaining of academic degrees.
Yes, the obtaining of academic or technical degrees if possible is very important but far more important is the preparation for eternal life “for what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of their very self”.
The education of which the law speaks therefore is education for discipleship, an education which allows us to live according to the values of Jesus Christ. Christian homes are thus meant to be schools of discipleship in whose curriculum the values of Jesus take pride of place. Unfortunately, that does not happen very often.
Families often put greater emphasis on making money than on the value of sharing, on comfort before the simple lifestyle, on self-centredness rather than on other-centredness.
In general, parents prefer that their children be known as great doctors or lawyers rather than being known as great saints. The result of this rather generalised education is the increasing lack of moral moorings encountered even among so-called good Christians.
Marriage law is thus never fully observed. This is so contrary to the attitude of Mary and Joseph who did everything the law commanded. The result was that “their child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him”.This must be the aim of all Christian parents and there are parents who have done that.
The Church has given us models of this in the beatification of the parents of St Theresa of the Child Jesus, the little flower. Truly it can be said of her that she grew, was filled with wisdom and the favour of God was on her.
Many years ago, the founding father of the nation said that our future as a nation rested in the school bags of our children. He was mistaken; while it is important for the future development of our nation that our children do well that is not the most important thing. What is truly important is the moral content of their souls.
All powerful and ever-loving God, your Son Jesus grew in wisdom and grace before You and before others because Mary and Joseph did for him all that the law required. Help us your people to do the same for our children so that they too may grow in wisdom and your favour may be upon them. We ask this through the intercession of Mary and Joseph, parents of Jesus. Amen.
The Gospel reflections for December were by Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris