Pastor's Desk Notes

December 31, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Though we are in those blessed days of repose and recovery after Christmas Day, it is always good for us to remember that the festivities of Christmas do not end on December 25. The Octave of Christmas, the eight days following the solemnity of our Lord’s Nativity, give us ample opportunity to continue celebrating and receiving the grace of this divine intervention in human history. Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. With this feast, we meditate on the reality that God becomes incarnate in the context of family life, and thus we see the dignity of the family in God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

One of the enduring symbols of Christmas is the shepherd. Last week, I wrote about Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s recent publication, The Secret of the Bethlehem Shepherds. The shepherds found Jesus in a dwelling not unlike those that they knew, surrounded by people not unlike themselves, and so learned the important lesson that God had come to His people as they were, that God loved His people even in the things that would seem too simple or ordinary. As we draw close to the end of the octave of Christmas and celebrate this feast of the Holy Family, we are reminded that the Incarnate Son of God dwells in the simplicity and ordinariness of a family. Family life is something with which we are, no pun intended, familiar.

While the manger shows the shepherds that God has come to dwell with them, the image of the family might not always resonate as easily for us moderns. It is no secret that some of us have experienced family conflict or breakdown, or that within our families we sometimes experience division or friction. The Holy Family, made up as it was of the Incarnate Son of God, the Virgin conceived without sin, and Joseph the Just Man, we might be tempted to think that the Holy Family is an overly idealistic vision of family life. To be sure there was likely little if any conflict in the holy house of Nazareth. But if we look to the extended family and the ancestral line into which Jesus is born, we will see a different tale. Both Matthew and Luke begin their Gospels with a genealogy of Jesus. The ancestors of our Lord include some of the great figures of the Old Testament, but numbered among them are people who were famously unfaithful to God’s covenants, publicly sinful, and generally not the perfect people we might expect God to choose for His family. Why then would Jesus enter into such a flawed human lineage? Jesus comes to perfect family life, to restore what was God’s plan from the beginning. In Genesis, God creates Adam and Eve, and He makes them the perfect complement to one another, endowing them with the power to work with Him in the very act of creation itself, both by caring for the earth and by bringing new life into the world. Sin has disfigured that complementarity and that cooperation with God’s design, but Jesus comes to elevate and perfect what is broken.

And so the perfection of the Holy Family ought not disturb us. Rather, the ideal presented by that Holy Family is a reminder of what we can be in our own homes. It is a reminder also of the dignity that God sees in each and every family. What God desires is that each family, striving for the perfection, charity, and holiness of the Holy Family, would become living images of His presence in the world. If we strive after the ideal of the Holy Family, our own lives will be more perfect, our own homes will be more peaceful, our families will be more whole. When our families – and here I must pause and thank all of you for the gift that your families are to this parish community and to me personally – are on that path to holiness, what transformation will be wrought in our town, in our state, our country, and our world!

O Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us!


Fr. Sam