Holy pictures of the Flight into Egypt have a certain charm about them. There is Mary, with Jesus in her arms, riding a camel that is led by Joseph.
But the reality was far from charming. As we learn from the Gospel for the Feast of the Holy Family, King Herod was so intent on taking the life of Jesus that Almighty God found it expedient to send an angel to warn Joseph in a dream to get moving and get moving fast.
There was nothing romantic about Joseph and Mary having to abandon plans for a peaceful return from Bethlehem to Nazareth where they looked forward to settling down at home and raising the child Jesus. This family was fleeing for its life, fighting for its life, with a special concern for the helpless infant, Jesus. Most families would have this instinct that the elders protect the very young, even with their lives if necessary. In the case of the Holy Family, Jesus, as we know, was very, very special and, therefore, to be cherished and protected with extra care.
The reality of families in fear fleeing from danger towards God-knows-what is brought home to us day after day on our TV screens when newscasts show us refugees on the move or huddled together in wretched shanty-town camps. Perhaps such a state of emergency creates a bonding of surviving together and an appreciation that, with all the privations and hardships, people cherish and take care of each other.
On this Feast of the Holy Family we should be mightily thankful if our own families are living in security and with sufficiency. We will know what a blessing it is if we are living with a modicum of harmony in our homes.
Andour hearts must go out to those who do not have this, who have never known this, and to those who at this very moment find that their family life is crumbling to pieces. For one reason or another, the idea of Holy Family and Happy Family finds no resonance in their own lives. If anything, it remains a dream never to be fulfilled.
I sense that this feast surely offers special graces of consolation for those who are starved of fond family memories. Those who have none of this pain should realize how much they need the grace to treasure what they have and to take flight from all that destabilizes families -- selfishness, unresolved quarrels, disloyalties and infidelities. There surely must be the grace to recognize and fight against the social environment that undermines family life making it so difficult for parents to bring up their children with godly values.
Special graces of discernment and self-discipline are needed to deal with the threat to family life of both young and old alike being so taken up in many pursuits, not necessarily bad in themselves, that they find little quality time for each other. The tragedy is when this is accepted as a fact of life in the modern world. As this happens meaningful relationships become increasingly disposable. This constitutes a huge privation of loving experiences and lovely moments together in the home, with children and especially adolescents being the chief losers, the most liable to be damaged.
The Flight into Egypt that we hear about in the Gospel of today's feast suggests that we should consider to what extent the love, unity and even survival of our own families are under threat. Are there precautionary measures to be taken before it is too late? Family life is something precious. Those near to us should be dear to us and we to them. Family life is worth fighting for. Family life needs fighting for. And most certainly, praying for.