How can we travel as a family through Lent and Easter?
First of all, congratulations for having the courage and the presence of mind to take this journey as a family. We have a model we can follow if we want to travel as a family through Lent and Easter: the Holy Family of Nazareth. Through their life experiences and their virtues, we will see how our families can also live through these holy seasons of our church year.
Follow the mother during Lent
Let us remember that for the Holy Family Lent was a personal, lived experience. God did not keep them from experiencing anguish and agony. They suffered many of the human pains we still suffer.
Looking through the eyes of the mother of the Holy Family, we can understand what we remember and make present during Lent: remember the unexpected conception of the holy child at the announcement of a heavenly messenger, the unkind comments regarding Mary’s pregnancy, the inconvenient journey to Bethlehem at the end of the pregnancy, the surprising visit of the Magi, the persecution of the Christ child by Herod, the hurried flight to Egypt, the long journey back to Nazareth, the work of rebuilding their life for a third time, the life in relative obscurity, the eventual death of St. Joseph, the scoffers and doubters during Jesus’ public ministry, then the arrest, passion and death of Jesus Christ and his entombment on Good Friday.
Mary experienced all these things and “pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). We ought to do the same, recalling God’s unfolding plan of salvation and pondering the great mystery of the incarnation and the great obedience of the Son to the Father.
Our solace in Lent
One solace during Lent and throughout all our lives is that the Holy Family knows our sorrows and our pain. The Holy Family walked in our shoes. They were not spared the sorrow of death, they were not spared the distress of having doubters and enemies, they became very familiar with suffering and loss. As we walk this final week of Lent and enter into the Holy Triduum, let us enter it with our whole hearts and minds, knowing this mystery of Lent is also unfolding in our lives.
We all have our lived Lent, we all suffer, we all sacrifice and experience loss, but through it all, we need to remember we are walking with and into the blessed mystery of the life of each of the members of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Follow the Son during Easter
After the abandonment and pain of Good Friday and the sense of loss and emptiness of the tomb on Holy Saturday, in our grief and sorrow but also in amazement, we come, perhaps unexpectedly, upon the Feast of Feasts.
We could not predict the mighty hand of God was moving in all the events of Jesus’ life. The Son, completely obedient to the Father, was accomplishing the work of salvation and the triumph of love, selflessness and obedience to the will of God over death and pain and sin and hopelessness.
As a whole family in faith, we can celebrate with Jesus, and in Jesus, the hope of the resurrection. Jesus showed us in himself, that no pain is too great that it cannot be healed, no suffering too overwhelming, no loss too severe.
In Jesus, pain is conquered, death is conquered and sin is conquered. Now the redemption of God is upon us and we can live in the time of Easter, not just once per year, not just when we remember Easter, but every Sunday all year long.
We live in the time of the redemption and of the hope brought about by Jesus’ Paschal mystery. Individually and as a family and community we participate in that mystery every day of our lives. This is a great HOPE and a cause for JOY because that which seemed to bring us down and to steal our joy and cause our death has been transformed by the power of God.
Follow St. Joseph after the Resurrection
Jesus, Mary and Joseph are now reunited in heaven, once again sharing in each other’s love. This is our own hope too, that having been baptized into Christ and living a life of faith in him, we may die with him and also be raised with him to eternal life; not just us, but our entire family.
The eternal salvation of our family is a cause worth fighting and sacrificing for. We have, not only a model to follow in the Holy Family, but we can also pray for their help in our own lents and in living the joy of Easter.
I offer the following Holy Family prayer as one way to ask for the Holy Family’s help and blessing upon our own families throughout Lent, Easter and the whole year.
The Holy Family Prayer
“JESUS, Son of God and Son of Mary, bless our family. Graciously inspire in us the unity, peace and mutual love that you found in your own family in the little town of Nazareth.
MARY, Mother of Jesus and Our Mother, nourish our family with your faith and your love. Keep us close to your Son, Jesus, in all our sorrows and joys.
JOSEPH, Foster-father to Jesus, guardian and spouse of Mary, keep our family safe from harm. Help us in all times of discouragement or anxiety.
HOLY FAMILY OF NAZARETH, make our family one with you. Help us to be instruments of peace. Grant that love, strengthened by grace, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass. May we always have God at the center of our hearts and homes until we are all one family, happy and at peace in our true home with you. Amen.
(Henry, his wife, Dr. Patricia Cabral, and their five children belong to St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee. Reyes wears many hats as a business owner, doctoral student and candidate in the deacon formation program for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, but he says his most important hat is building his domestic church as a stay-at-home dad and homeschooling his three oldest children.)