What would you do if an angel came to you in a dream and directed you to get up, leave your home, and travel to a foreign country? What if you just finished an 80 mile hike and had a baby in a manger? It would be pretty intimidating, don’t you think? Imagine St Joseph having to explain to Mary, who just delivered her miraculously conceived son, that there would be no time for rest. They had to go and they had to go immediately. They were no longer safe in Israel and were fleeing to Egypt for refuge. Egypt!? That is the place of slavery, not safety. The Israelites took 40 years to get out of there and now they were being summoned back. Mary and Joseph were aware of the circumstances, but God had spoken and what would you do? In the wings of faith, they responded, got up and left the only country they had called home.
Let us approach this Feast of the Holy Family with a renewed appreciation for the life they lived. Far too often, we forget that the saints had real problems; just like us. Who knows what hopes they had of a quiet life in Bethlehem? Did Joseph believe he could have a successful carpentry shop there? Or did all aspirations of normalcy go out the window when they both accepted a virginal conception? As the man of the house, Joseph had to do the hard thing; put his wife and newborn son on a donkey and make the long trek to Egypt. How long would they stay there? Only God knew. Although the details are different, we can all relate to facing trials, moments of uncertainty, and making difficult choices.
It is in these moments of crisis, when the pretenses of life come crashing down, we are left with the things that really matter. When all else fails, we have our faith. St Joseph understood that as he led his family into Egypt. It is through the Holy Family that we see the intimate connection between family life and faith life. Despite their trials and sufferings, Mary and Joseph literally experienced Heaven on Earth because they raised the Incarnate Son of God. Every time they kissed his baby cheeks, they sniffed the sweetness of heaven. Every time they stared in his eyes, they saw a window into eternity. This is truly a mystery beyond mysteries.
Jesus came into the world through a family and continues to come through our families. What an awesome invitation we have to journey with the Holy Family and unite our suffering with theirs, so that we too my bring the hidden savior to the world.