A reflection for the feast of the Holy Family

Dani M. Jiménez reflects on the readings for December 31, 2023.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year B):

Sirach 3:2 – 6, 12 – 14
Psalms 128:1 – 2, 3, 4 – 5.
Colossians 3:12 – 21 or 3:12 – 17
Luke 2:22 – 40

Reflection: Finding God with the Holy Family

Devotion to the Holy Family began the very same night Jesus was born. And what a strange occurrence: that the very first people to adore God made human were shepherds. It was not kings, it was not priests, it was not the rich and mighty. The witnesses to God’s greatest miracle, found in the comforting warmth of the Holy Family, were simple shepherds. Shepherding was not an honored profession, at that time. Quite the contrary, shepherds were poor and positioned low in the social hierarchy. In this story, the ostracized find God among their own.

Because the Holy Family existed in the margins of society. According to one popular tradition, St. Joseph was a widower, an old man selected to serve as guardian of a temple virgin. And according to scripture, Mary was a young, unwed, and suddenly pregnant, girl. It seems as though circumstance brought this family together. Their plan was never to be co-parents. But there was a baby bump and no wedding. Joseph had to travel back to Bethlehem for the census. Was the rest of his family not there? Was there truly no one that could deign to house a pregnant woman in her third trimester, and her guardian? Perhaps, Joseph’s family just couldn’t handle the dishonor of letting this sullied couple into their home. And so, they were forced to seek refuge for the night in a stable, among the animals. Mary had to go through the pains of labor on the cold, dirty floor. And Joseph had to help her deliver a child that wasn’t even his son, all alone.

The Holy Family is not a picturesque, nuclear family. If anything, it could be argued that it is subversive. Mary is the Theotokos, the God-bearer. A matriarch, she sings in the Magnificat her desire for the world to turn on its head. The canticle goes: “[God] has put down the mighty from their thrones: and has exalted the humble and meek. He has filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:52-53) Think of how revolutionary that is! For an unmarried pregnant woman of Nazareth, under the rule of the bloody Roman Empire, to sing about the end of social stratum as we know it.


And while Mary speaks up plenty in the gospels, Joseph never utters a word. Sweet, gentle, silent, and observant St. Joseph. His masculinity is never threatened by Mary’s fierceness. Instead, he is her and Jesus’ meek guardian.

The Holy Family is about finding holiness where you think there is nothing holy. In the places where they’ll warn you sin is rampant and the people are unworthy. There, you’ll find God. You cannot judge a situation by its outward appearance. Now matter how much you dissect people’s families —whether they be by blood or chosen— you will never know what happens there. You don’t know how the Holy Spirit moves between these familial bonds. But there is a certainty: The Holy Family is reflected there, even if this family does not look like your own.

There is one final thing I wish to say, and that is: May we never forget of Mary’s sorrow of the “Flight to Egypt”. May we never forget how tremendously the Holy Family suffered. Today, we can find the Holy Family in an immigration detention center. The Holy Family is in Gaza. It is in Sudan, and in Congo. They are in your own community: the immigrant, the hungry, the poor. “Christ has no body on Earth but yours,” as St. Teresa of Ávila so beautifully puts it. Yours should be the hands that extend God’s Mercy and Love to your fellow human beings. Not in charity, but in solidarity.

About the author

Dani M. Jiménez

Dani M. Jiménez from And Her Saints is a queer writer and illustrator from Costa Rica. She spends her time illustrating the holy in a way that is affirming and representative of those on the margins of society.

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