If you haven’t made a New Year’s resolution yet, or even if you have, the Holy Family has something to offer you. This year, New Year’s Eve happened to fall on the Feast of the Holy Family, which provided an excellent opportunity for me to reflect on this humble family, and to consider what they can teach us regarding the resolutions we usually make.
As I thought about the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and all they went through, one thing kept coming back to my mind over and over again. A virtue that I noticed they all possessed. A quality that seems to be lacking in our world, and something that God has challenged me personally to work on. It is something most people don’t like, and it is usually considered a vice rather than a virtue. What is it you may wonder? What trait did all members of the Holy Family have, but we need to work on? Obedience. It is the virtue of obedience.
Ouch! The word has a bite to it I know. Mainly because we value our individual freedom and independence. We want to do things our way. We ask selfish questions such as “Is this in my best interest?” Or “What’s in it for me?” Imagine if Mary told the Angel Gabriel that becoming pregnant before she was married to Joseph was not in her best interest? Or if Joseph told God after the angel visited him in a dream that there was nothing beneficial for him in this big mess and that he was bailing ship? Even though what was happening to them didn’t make sense, they trusted in the Lord and obeyed.
Mary’s words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to our word.” (Lk1:38) is a beautiful example of obedience. She obeyed “blindly,” having faith that God knew what was best. And Joseph gives us a good example of immediate obedience. After Jesus was born, an angel came to him in a dream at night and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you: for Herod is about to search for the child and destroy him.” (Mt 2:13) Joseph rose and took Jesus and Mary immediately out by night on the long journey to Egypt.
Jesus also showed obedience in his childhood- to Mary and Joseph, and then on into his adulthood. For example, when Jesus was experiencing tremendous agony in the garden before his crucifixion. He pleads with his heavenly Father “If you are willing, remove this chalice from me; nevertheless, not my will be done, but yours.” Lk (22:42) Not my will be done, but yours. That was the prevalent motto of the Holy Family. Accepting the will of God with total obedience to their Father.
The Holy Family is a model for us to imitate. Obedience is something we can all work on. So, I invite you to join me in working on obedience in 2018. It won’t be easy, but with help from the Holy Family we can grow in this virtue. One way to bring the virtue of obedience with you into this new year is to reflect on something that you struggle with obeying. Maybe you struggle with following a teaching of the faith. You just don’t “get it,” or you think that following the teaching is not really in your “best interest.” Your prayer can be God, it is hard for me to be obedient. Please help me to trust like Joseph. Help me to say yes like Mary, and help me to do your will like Jesus.
Or maybe this New Year instead of asking yourself, “What can I do to become a better person this year?” Why not ask God, “Lord, what do you want me to do this year to become a better person?” Yes, ask him to let you know what New Year’s resolution you should make! Then listen; be attentive. He will let you know.
Truth be told, saying YES to God’s plan and saying no to your own plan is difficult. It is a yes to love, but also a yes to sacrifice and hardship. It will be hard to confront our seemingly unyielding defiance towards obedience. So prayer; the quiet listening kind, like in silent adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, is paramount in this undertaking. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to God’s grace, then amazing things will happen. For his plans for us are way, way bigger and better than any plans that we can create or imagine for ourselves.
Know that if you make a New Year’s resolution with the Holy Family regarding obedience, you will have the best teachers in the world as your companions through these next 12 months. And though it will be a demanding and challenging journey, take to heart what the angel told Mary-it is a message for all of us. That “nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) With God being the key words. We can’t do this on our own.
May God shower us with grace as we strive to grow in this virtue.
Have a blessed (and obedient) New Year everyone!