The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas; during the Angelus prayer at midday yesterday, Pope Francis recalled that Jesus had wanted to be born into "a human family, and he wanted to have a mother and a father".
"Today's Gospel tells the story of the Holy Family's painful flight to Egypt in search of exile",ˇ said Pope Francis to the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. "Joseph, Mary and Jesus experience the dramatic condition of life as refugees, full of fear, uncertainty, and discomfort. Unfortunately, in our times, millions of families can identify with this sad reality. Nearly every day, television and newspapers provide news about refugees fleeing hunger, war, and other serious dangers in search of security and a decent life for themselves and their families. In distant lands, even when they find work, refugees and immigrants are not always welcomed, nor do they find respect and appreciation for the values they bring. Their legitimate expectations clash with complex situations and problems that at times appear insurmountable".
The Holy Father urged those present to contemplate the Holy Family of Nazareth when forced to seek refuge, and to consider "the tragedy of migrants and refugees who are victims of rejection and exploitation ... of human trafficking and forced labour", as well as "those who are exiled within families: the elderly, for example, who are sometimes treated as a cumbersome presence".
"Jesus wanted to belong to a family that experienced these difficulties, so that no one may be excluded from God's loving closeness. The flight into Egypt due to Herod's threats shows us that God is present wherever man is in danger, where man suffers, where he flees, where he experiences rejection and neglect. But he is also present where man dreams, hopes to return to his homeland in freedom, makes plans for his life and dignity and for that of his family".
Before the Marian prayer, the Pontiff noted, "Today our gaze on the Holy Family is also drawn by the simplicity of its life in Nazareth. It is an example that does a lot of good to our families, helping them to become a community of love and reconciliation, in which we experience tenderness, mutual help, and mutual forgiveness".
Pope Francis reminded those present of the "three key words for peace and joy in family life: 'excuse me, thank you, sorry'", explaining that "when we do not want to be intrusive in our family and say 'excuse me!', when we are not selfish and say 'thank you', and when we make mistakes and apologise, then there is peace and joy within a family"ˇ.
Finally he encouraged families to "become aware of their importance in the Church and in society"ˇ, because "the Gospel is proclaimed first within the family, and then in the different spheres of everyday life". He invoked Mary, Joseph and Jesus, to "enlighten, comfort, and guide every family in the world, so that they may fulfil with dignity and serenity the mission God has entrusted to them."
Following the Angelus prayer Pope Francis commented that the next Consistory and the next Synod of Bishops will address the theme of the family and therefore recited the prayer to the Holy Family he had composed, inviting all to join with him spiritually, especially those linked to St. Peter's Square from the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and the shrine of Loreto:
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendour of true love, to you we turn with trust. Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches. Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing. Holy Family of Nazareth, may the approaching Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God's plan. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer. Amen".