VATICAN CITY — Tens of thousands thronged St. Peter’s Square Dec. 30 as Pope Benedict XVI marked the feast of the Holy Family with a special prayer for “all the families of the world.” He prayed that parents “seriously concern” themselves with their children’s education, that they realize that every child is “an incomparable gift from God” and that they are neither “friends nor masters” of their children’s lives, but “guardians” of this gift.
Below is a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s Angelus address for the feast of the Holy Family:
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today is the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. In the liturgy, the passage from Luke’s Gospel presents the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph who, faithful to tradition, go to Jerusalem for the Passover with the 12-year-old Jesus. The first time Jesus had entered the Temple of the Lord was 40 days after his birth, when his parents had offered “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:24) on his behalf, which is the sacrifice of the poor.
“Luke, whose Gospel is filled with a whole theology of the poor and poverty, makes it clear ... that Jesus’ family was counted among the poor of Israel; he helps us to understand that it was there among them where the fulfillment of God’s promise matured” (The Infancy Narratives, 96).
Today, Jesus is in the Temple again, but this time he has a different role, which involves him in the first person. He undertakes the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as prescribed by the Law (Exodus 23:17, 34:23), together with Mary and Joseph, although he was not yet in his 13th year: a sign of the deep religiosity of the Holy Family.
But when his parents return to Nazareth, something unexpected happens: He, without saying anything, remains in the city. For three days, Mary and Joseph search for him and find him in the Temple, speaking with the teachers of the Law (Luke 2:46, 47), and when they ask him for an explanation, Jesus tells them they have no cause to wonder, because that is his place, that is his home, with the Father, who is God (The Infancy Narratives 143). “He, Origen writes, professes to be in the Temple of his Father, the Father who has revealed himself to us and of which he says he is the Son” (Homilies on the Gospel of Luke, 18:5).
Mary and Joseph’s concern for Jesus is the same as every parent who educates children, introduces them to life and to understanding reality. Today, therefore, we should say a special prayer to the Lord for all the families of the world. Imitating the Holy Family of Nazareth, may parents seriously concern themselves about the growth and education of their children, so that they may mature as responsible and honest citizens, without ever forgetting that faith is a precious gift to be nourished in their children through personal example.
At the same time, we pray that every child is welcomed as a gift from God, is sustained by the love of the father and mother, in order to advance, as the Lord Jesus, “in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52). The love, loyalty and dedication of Mary and Joseph are an example for all Christian couples, who are neither the friends nor masters of their children’s lives, but the guardians of this incomparable gift from God.
The silence of Joseph, the just man (Matthew 1:19), and the example of Mary, who kept all things in her heart (Luke 2:51), cause us to enter into the mystery full of faith and humanity of the Holy family. I wish for all Christian families to live in the presence of God with the same love and the same joy as the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer. Today, the Church throughout the world celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. May Jesus, Mary and Joseph bring greater love, unity and harmony to all Christian families, that they in their turn may be a firm example to the communities in which they live. May God bless you and your dear families!