Feast of the Holy Family. Is the Holy Family in That Caravan? The 4th Day of igNation’s 12 Days of Christmas.

Source: youtube.com

Pope Francis compared the Holy Family to modern-day refugees in his Christmas homily last year.

“So many other footsteps are hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary. We see the tracks of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the tracks of millions of persons who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones.

In many cases this departure is filled with hope, hope for the future; yet for many others this departure can only have one name: survival. Surviving the Herods of today, who, to impose their power and increase their wealth, see no problem in shedding innocent blood. Mary and Joseph, for whom there was no room, are the first to embrace the One who comes to give all of us our document of citizenship.

The One who in his poverty and humility proclaims and shows that true power and authentic freedom are shown in honoring and assisting the weak and the frail.”

—Pope Francis, Christmas homily 2017

 He’s hardly the first pope to make this connection. It was a common theme with his predecessor, Benedict XVI. An early example from a pope is Pius XII. He wrote an apostolic constitution in 1952. Exsul Familia uses the migrant Holy Family to address the plight of millions of post-World War Two refugees in Europe.

“The émigré Holy Family of Nazareth, fleeing into Egypt, is the archetype of every refugee family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, living in exile in Egypt to escape the fury of an evil king, are, for all times and all places, the models and protectors of every migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution or by want, is forced to leave his native land, his beloved parents and relatives, his close friends, and to seek a foreign soil.” — Pope Pius XII, Exsul Familia Nazarethana

The Gospel for today recounts the story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus going up to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. They have settled in Nazareth by this point, but it is inevitable that their refugee flight into Egypt is never far from their mind. Jesus was twelve.

Unknown to his parents, he lingered in Jerusalem after the festival. Mary and Joseph assumed that he was in the group of travelers. They returned to the city after they discovered that Jesus was not among the group. We are told that Mary states, “Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”

Great anxiety. That’s a normal and common response to any situation where a child is missing. That frantic search happens very often in our world and there can be many reasons for the child’s disappearance – an innocent curious child wandering away, a miscommunication, a tragic accident, a natural disaster, or abduction.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to conjure up images of that caravan of migrants weaving its was through Mexico, hoping to find a welcome when they reach the US border. There have been many stories in the traditional and social media about the many families who are in the caravan.

One of the advantages of travelling in a group is safety. Mary and Joseph knew that. But, even then, there is great anxiety when they cannot find their son.

This Feast of the Holy Family is a reminder for us to be attentive and mindful of the families in that caravan.

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 01:16h, 30 December Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 12:18h, 30 December Reply

    Thank you Fr Shano for that present day analogy and reminder. Wish you a blessed, healthy and peaceful end of 2018.

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