Feast of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Let me describe to you the perfect family life:

1. The wife, around the age of 12 to 14 became pregnant out side of marriage. She was betrothed to a man who was not the father. He went ahead and married her anyway.

2. The Man had to register with the government in his home town so he and his wife, who was due at anytime, had to travel 80 miles. There is no mention of transportation so it is assumed that they had to walk. It took about a week to get where they were going. Some spots on the trip were known for thieves, and murderers who would hide and then jump out and rob you blind or kill you.

3. Once in the city where they had to register, they did not have a place to sleep. So they found a small cave where animals would be sheltered.

4. While there, the wife found that it was time for the baby to come. There was no doctor to help. At the least she had to give birth with out any help. At the most she had her husband there to help the best he could.

5. She had a baby boy. Who was always considered by most as the bastard child. (John 8:41)

6. They were so poor that they could only afford the cheapest of offerings to give when they partook in their religious ceremonies.

7. Not to long after the birth of their child they had to pick up and flee for their lives, seeking asylum in a foreign land as refugees. They left almost everything behind and traveled almost 200 miles.

8. When their child was at the age of 12, he went missing for several days before he was found.

9. The husband died early on in the marriage.

10. The son was found guilty of treason and put to death by the government.

11. The wife was left behind with no husband or son to take care of her. She had to rely on a non family member to take care of her.

It does not sound like the perfect family does it? But as you may have guessed I am describing the Holy Family.

The truth is, is that the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and Jesus was a perfect picture of what a family should be. It was not the circumstances of their life that made them a good example. It was how they handle the circumstances that God had brought into their lives!

I am sure many people looked at Joseph and Mary as folks with bad luck who could not seem to get ahead in life. But here is the thing. No matter how much or how little they had, they had Jesus. He was a gift given by God that is worth more than all the gold, frankincense and myrrh given by the three wise men. In fact the worth of Jesus was immeasurable. They did not think of themselves as poor. They were rich beyond measure.

(II Corinthians 8:9)
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being rich he became poor, for your sakes; that through his poverty you might be rich.

(Philippians 4:19)
9. And may my God supply all your want, according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
In conclusion let me share a true story with a few edits of my own.

Let me illustrate my point with this story:

The Rich Family in Church
I’ll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Peggy was 12, and my older sister Ashley 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise, and no money. By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home.

A month before Easter the Priest at our Parish announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially. When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. Then we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn’t listen to the radio, we’d save money on that month’s electric bill. Ashley got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us babysat for everyone we could. For 15 cents we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1.

We made $20 on pot holders. That month was one of the best of our lives. Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we’d sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the parishioners would give them. We had about 80 people in our Parish, so figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday our Priest had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.

The day before Easter, Peggy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change. We ran all the way home to show Mom and Ashley. We had never had so much money before.

That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn’t care that we wouldn’t have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering. We could hardly wait to get to Mass!

On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn’t own an umbrella, and the Parish was over a mile from our home, but it didn’t seem to matter how wet we got. Peggy had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet. 

But we sat at Mass proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt rich.

When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us kids put in a $20. As we walked home after Mass, we sang all the way.

At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes!

Late that afternoon the Priest drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn’t say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10, and seventeen $1 bills. Mom put the money back in the envelope.

We didn’t talk, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn’t have our Mom and Dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the spoon or the fork that night. We had two knives that we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn’t have a lot of things that other people had, but I’d never thought we were poor.

That Easter day I found out we were. The Priest had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor. I didn’t like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed—I didn’t even want to go back to Mass. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor!

I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew that we were poor. I decided that I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time. We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much.

Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn’t know. We’d never known we were poor.

We didn’t want to go to Mass on Sunday, but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we didn’t talk on the way. Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse.

At Mass we had a missionary Priest. After mass he gave a short talk about how Parishes in Africa made buildings out of sun dried bricks, but they needed money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a building. Our Priest said, “Can’t we all sacrifice to help these poor people?”

We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week. Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Ashley. Ashley gave it to me, and I handed it to Peggy. Peggy put it in the offering. When the offering was counted, our Priest announced that it was a little over $100.

The missionary Priest was excited. He hadn’t expected such a large offering from our small Parish. He said, “You must have some rich people in this Parish.” Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that “little over $100.” We were the rich family in the Parish! Hadn’t the missionary Priest said so?

From that day on I’ve never been poor again. I’ve always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus! 

Feast of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph