As I read the readings this morning prior to mass, I was moved by Sirach’s words about fathers: “My child, help your father in his old age and do not grieve him as long as he lives. Even is his mind fails, be patient with him; because you have all your faculties.” These words on the Feast of the Holy Family took on new meaning for me. I could not help but wonder if Joseph needed his son’s help as he aged. Tradition has it that Joseph was older than Mary and died prior to the start of Christ’s ministry. My own heart is tender towards my dad as he struggles with remembering what he is saying in his pain fog.
This Feast day helps us to imagine Jesus growing up in a family, watching his father in the shop and his mother in the kitchen. I can hear peals of laughter as Joseph tosses his young son in the air, followed by shouts of “Do it again, Papa!” I see him riveted to the cake his mother is making and she smiles as she gives him the spoon to lick. My heart is warmed as Mary tucks her son into bed and gives him a good night kiss. Joseph lifts the young lad up from where he has fallen asleep and carries him into the house after a long journey. They are at temple together worshiping. They attend weddings where no first miracle yet happens. They tend to sick relatives and no one is healed. They know both sorrow and joy as a family. They are like every family, with disappointments and celebrations making their lives routine.
That routine will end one day and Christ will step up to perform the first of many miracles and suddenly life will not be the same. Joseph will not see this part of his son’s life but his influence will have played a part in how Jesus carries out his mission. Family shapes us for the vocation we embrace. Jesus has more than one Father but both mold him into the man he is meant to be. On this Holy Feast Day, give thanks for your family who has made you who you are. It is sometimes a hard gift to accept, with painful lessons at times, but if you embrace it lovingly, you might see the goodness that is there.