Octave of Christmas--Feast of the Holy Family
Consider the Holy Family. At first the whole marriage is called into question when Joseph finds out the Mary is pregnant. He decides to divorce her. But then when he receives inspiration in a dream he relents. So Jesus being born into a single parent family is averted (although as Mother Teresa once pointed out to Father Benedict Groeschel all children have God as their father--so there really is no such thing as a "single parent" family for the believer).
Next we have the family setting out for the census taking. They haven't made reservations though, and so they end up living a nightmare that I have had the chance to experience myself a few times--no vacancy at any of the hotels. So Our Lord is born in a cave.
Then when Herod seeks the life of the child the family flees into Egypt as political refugees.
Really the holy card image of the Holy Family lacks any of the struggles and hardships that in reality were the lot of the Holy Family. Evidently Joseph died before Jesus was thirty since he is never mentioned later in the Gospels. Of course Mary will endure the death of her son three years later at thirty-three. The joy of the resurrection will be tempered by His absence forty days later at the Ascension. The Holy Family experienced almost any tragedy that we can place in our experience of family life. When we call on Jesus, Mary and Joseph we should be mindful of that...the struggles of life are not ours alone to bear. Heaven lowered itself not into a plush life but into the very sorrowful existence that is ours.
It is important to focus on the reality of the Holy Family so that we can capture the meaning of the prophecy that is made by Simeon today. It is one that sees God's promise fulfilled in the infant Jesus but at the same time predicts hard times. God's blessing is not always what we might expect. It is not the Gospel of wealth and prosperity that is sometime proclaimed by the televangelist--it is one of being misunderstood, contradictions and the piercing of the mother's heart as she witnesses the death of her Son--the Son of God.
May the Holy Family bless us with the sense to find meaning in the events of our daily lives, no matter what they may bring.