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Fr. Michael's Thoughts on Biblical Imagery: The Holy Family


(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)


            Family is one of the beautiful “institutions” God gifted humankind. The natural bond of love, the sense of belonging, security and shelter that family provides may not be experienced anywhere. God could have made His Son come to dwell with us in the mode of the mystical biblical figure Melchizedek who scripture says had no lineage and without beginning or end. Jesus could have come in that form but God destined that His Son should be born into a family and share family ties. It is this beautiful family of Nazareth of Joseph, Mary and Jesus and his cousins that we celebrate today.

            The bond of love is believed to have started at creation. The author of the book of Genesis gives a romantic touch to how it all begun. We are told that after God has formed Adam, He found him lonely and so he formed Eve to be his helpmate and companion. God then gave a solemn decree with an eternal touch: “…this is how a man will leave his father and mother and join himself with his wife and they will no longer be two but one flesh…and what has been joined together let no man separate.” This, I will like to think can be considered as the real solemnization of the bond of love between members of a family. God staying in line with this teaching, made sure that Jesus his Son came from the bond of love shared by Joseph and Mary.

            The fruition of this bond of love is procreation for which God promised Abraham. This will later find ecclesial codification in 1917, when the code of canon law rested the beauty of the bond of love shared by married couples in procreation. The fruit of the womb should always be seen as a gift from God but not an automatic reaction/effect of those who have come to share in the sacrament of marriage. The “barren life of Elizabeth, Hannah and others in the scriptures give indication that it is God who gives children at his own time. The bond of love primarily exist between a husband and wife; which may be beautified by their children but lack of children in marriage should never affect the bond of love between couples because children are not necessarily “the ontology” of the couples’ bond of love.

            It is with this background that the Second Vatican Council in Gaudium et Spes teaches that the validity and strength of marriage rests in the love shared by the man and his wife. Later, the 1983 code of canon law will affirm that. If the wedded couples have been able to cement this bond of love in Christ, then it is really indissoluble; then when they are blessed by God with children, the children also come to share in their parents’ bond of love that had already been established. Remember that it is not the presence of children that activate and make potent the bond of love of couples. With or without children, the grace of God should continue to oil the bond of love that exist between couples.

            The bond of love that holds a natural family together is modeled for us in the Gospel by a supernatural family in which the child is the Son of God. To that degree this unique union of husband, wife, and child is the norm for a normal earthly family’s Christian life. The passage depicts above all the father’s devotion to the future of the child. All the instructions Joseph receives from the angel are aimed at the child’s wellbeing. Nothing is said about how heavy a burden these commands place on the father. The orders are given in categorical terms: “Get up, take the child and his mother” and flee to Egypt. This duty given to Joseph may show that the bond of love in family life is not only the exercise of romantic duties but also parents working always to give shelter, food, clothing, good Christian education and security to members of their family.

            It is this duty that I will like to think the author of the first reading describes concretely yet with tenderness. Members of the family for the sake of the bond of love that exist among them should provide shelter, food, clothing, good Christian education and security. Aging parents whose “minds fail” are to be cared for with respect; a son should not revile them “in the fullness of his strength.” Whoever does not honor his parents will live in the fear that his own children will bring him no joy. Yet the command is elevated to acquire a religious component: love of parents brings about forgiveness of one’s own sins, counts as “a sin offering”, indeed, more than that, “whoever shows honor to his mother honors the Lord”: behind the human parent stands God, without whose action no new human life can emerge.

            In the second reading, Paul reveals love’s unity in the family. “Love one another”, “forgive one another”. Love alone is the cord that holds the family together through all crisis. It is rather unfortunate that some established institutions and countries are giving new definitions to the sacred institution of family life. The Church will never approve same sex marriage, siblings’ marriage and a marriage between humans and animals. We are much aware that same sex marriages have been approved in some countries but in recent times we hear rumors of the legalization of marriage between biological brother and sister; while in another place a marriage between a lady and her dog was given a “go ahead”. I hope that these two types of marriages not true but if they are, then the 21st century men and women are worse than the people who live in Sodom and Gomorrah. The sins of this present age have surpassed theirs.


  • Virginia GiordanoPosted on 12/30/19

    Beautifully written Father Michael. And forgiveness is so important because it also heals our own hearts and souls and brings us, hopefully, closer to Jesus



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