Open Bible:
February 2004 

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The Holy Family




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The Holy Family
Mathew 1, 18, Luke 1, 26-39; 2, 41-51

It is under the name of the Holy Family that the composed family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, is proposed as a model during the liturgy after Christmas and for the spirituality of families. Is that not surprising and what exactly is the situation about this family?

La Sainte Famille 

Family ties are far from simple. Mary is really the mother of Jesus, but the conditions under which she gave him birth are still mysterious today. It is the angel, Gabriel, thought of to be a messenger of God, who announces to Mary that she will have a child. Is it indeed the vehicle of what is modestly named the shadow of the Holy Spirit since answering Mary's question " How can this happen since I am still a virgin? The angel, sure of himself, says "The Holy Spirit will cover you of his shadow"? In the Scriptures we find annunciations from an angel to Sara, Abraham's spouse and mother of Isaac and also to Elizabeth, Mary's cousin, mother of John the Baptist. These two women were infertile and had past the age to bear a child. We find virginal births in other mythologies. In these cases, it is a way of saying that the child who is to be born will be an exceptional person.

question de Marie What did really happen? We know nothing. Is Mary a surrogate mother of a child of an undetermined origin or an unmarried mother that Joseph saves from dishonor? In fact Joseph is ready to secretly repudiate Mary to whom he is already engaged, because she became pregnant before they lived together. He is not the biological father of Jesus. 
However it is through him that Jesus' lineage is established, making Jesus a member of the family of David. The adoption of Jesus by Joseph is a strong deed. His contemporaries simply call him" Son of Joseph". Mary is not excluded from this lineage in the genealogy given by Mathew (1.1) since in Jesus' lineage. Joseph is named "the spouse of Mary". This has to be underlined in a culture where it is generally the woman who is identified by the name of her husband.

Was the child informed or had the intuition of his mysterious origin? As a teen-ager was he looking for his true father? Could it be the cause for running away during the pilgrimage at Jerusalem? During this time, Jesus could have discovered another lineage, the one related to a transcendence that he called his Father. But his parents did not understand him when he said he has "to be at his father's business". After this episode, he quietly staid at home, he learned Joseph's trade and carried it on up to 30 years of age. The Gospel says nothing about the relationship between Joseph and Mary, we may suppose they have been happy together. One may also suppose that they had other children, since in the Gospel it is spoken of the brothers and sisters of Jesus. When Mary gives birth to Jesus, Luke qualified him "her first born son". We have translated this expression into " only son" but it could as well be translated into "eldest son" Whatever these points, during his few years of public life, Jesus never emphasized his blood ties: "Who is my mother, or my brothers? Whoever shall do the will of God, is my brother, and my sister, and my mother (Mark, 3, 33-35)" and " who loves father or mother,…, son or daughter (his wife in Luke) more than me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10, 37)". Does he minimize the familial ties or instead open them up to other relationships? Is not this a door open for a closed knit family by allowing its members, his mother, his possible brothers and sisters to establish new relationships and new vocations?

What can be concluded from this lecture about the "Holy Family"? that there is no model of family life. Conception of a child outside marriage is not necessary to be condemned. The adoption of a human being shows that a biological link is not the only possible link between parents and children. Well behaving and stable children can be raised in different forms of family life. The run away child is a source of anguish and misunderstanding for his parents, however sometimes it is an essential step for him. A closed knit family does not favor the blossoming of its members.
Accordingly, all the families qualified as out of norms are at least recognized if not sanctified. Let us think of families with only one parent, with adopted children or recomposed and also with children from broken homes or with children obtained by medical assistance. 

hors de norme

Once more, the Gospel seems to be breaking all-made social models. Jesus makes a stand against all the ties hampering the liberty of mankind: family ties as mentioned here, but also social or religious ties.