Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Year A
Theme: “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13-14)
By: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Homily for Sunday December 29 2019
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Several years back, a week or so pre-Thanksgiving and, no doubt, with Christmas gift-giving in mind, Sister Mary Ann McGivern, writing for a Catholic website, reviewed a children’s book that will never be a popular stocking stuffer but will prove a compassionate resource for some struggling families. Sr. Mary Ann wrote:
“Rebecca Myers has written a children’s book entitled, ‘Someone I Know Lives in Prison,’ about making a trip to a prison to visit a family member. The color illustrations are muted with sepia tones. The people are white, black, Asian, Hispanic—though the judge is very white.
“It is a beautiful book about visiting family in a men’s prison. It is also a tough book, telling tales of the barbed wire at the top of the fence, going through metal detectors and carrying change for the vending machine in a clear plastic baggie. During the visit, the prison count occurs, and all the inmates stand in line while the families sit at tables and watch.
“Until now, nobody has given the children a tool to make some sense of the experience of having a parent locked up or to open the possibility of conversation with other kids or teachers or family members about that parent.” (NCR Today, November 11, 2013)
While the Christmas season does its all to spotlight the innocence of children, darkness is never far away. Indeed, we in North America experience the shortest and darkest days of the whole year at the very moment we celebrate the birth of the Son of God. The fiery sun, the star at the center of the solar system, is at its farthest from us when the gentle infant is born into this world. Yes, this is the season for dramatic contrasts as light and dark play against one another.
The gospel passage we hear today on the Feast of the Holy Family reminds us of this stark reality. As St. Matthew relates, “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13-14)
While the echoes of the angels’ hymn reverberate still— “Glory to God in highest heaven and peace to people in earth”—treachery is afoot as a death threat is made against the newborn Jesus. Warned in a dream, Joseph snatches up the child and his mother and steals away by night to safety. Though we know that Jesus survives Herod’s death threat, it is surely the precursor of even worse to follow, culminating on Calvary’s hillside. Jesus is doomed to die from the moment of his birth. Just as surely is he resurrection-bound.
Who could not be thinking this holy season of mothers and young children suffering in southern border detention centers? Who could not be thinking of Herod and his henchmen who are with us still? Indeed, the child Jesus—his 21st century brown-skinned embodiment—is still fleeing.
Light and darkness, life and death: even though it is our firm belief that light and life triumph, the threatening nearness of dark death keeps us on edge, even—especially
—in this holy season.