From a reader…
At this time of year the inevitable ‘Mary was an unwed mother‘ and The Holy Family’s flight into Egypt makes them migrants sermons are very confusing. Can you clarify these interpretations? Or recommend a source that does.I discount them as political or ‘Social Justice’interpretations that use both events to their own purposes, which I think is wrong! A recent example was USCCB using the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe as ‘a day of Solidarity with Migrants’. I see my church becoming way too political. Thank you and Merry Christmas to you!
Yes… this sort of thing is inevitable: force the narrative into an agenda.
1 – Mary was an unwed mother… not.
The Jewish marriage practice was to make the contract with the bride’s father and pay a bride-price (mohar) and the betrothal was the legal equivalent of a marriage ceremony. The bride would remain in her father’s home for up to a year, but she was considered to be married. Joseph would have paid the bride-price at their engagement, when the marriage contract was solemnized, but Mary would have remained in Joachim’s house. They were formally wedded in a ceremony after the angel instructed Joseph in the dream.
So, from the moment Mary was betrothed to Joseph she was legally considered to be the wife of Joseph. Their relationship was sacred as if they had already had the wedding ceremony. The bond could not be dissolved except, as after formal marriage, by divorce.
Calling Mary an “unwed mother” is dangerously close to blasphemy.
2 – The Holy Family were “refugees”. Sort of, but not in the way that liberals want you to believe.
The Holy Family goes first to Bethlehem because of the census. If you are going to your ancestral town mandated census, you are not a refugee.
“But Father! But Father!, libs are squealing, “They were denied a room in the inn. Those innkeepers were mean refugee hating meanies! They were undocumented migrants and the haters refused to let them in. That’s what YOU would do! That’s because you HATE VATICAN II!”
If you register in the census, you are not “undocumented”.
They weren’t migrants, because they were only there to register and then return home to Nazareth.
They didn’t get to stay at the inn or the khan, because – try to follow this – there was no room at the inn. Which means there was no room at the inn. They weren’t give room because there wasn’t any. If there had been a room, they would have been given a room. It was customary to take travelers into homes, as when people journeyed to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice. As Alfred Edersheim explains the denial of a room had nothing to do with their poverty. The rabbinic teaching was that travelers were to be received as the shekinah should be received. So, they weren’t rejected because they were poor, or “different” or foreigners, blah blah blah. The inn or khan was FULL.
The Holy Family went to Egypt. Why? Just before the Patron Saint of Planned Parenthood, Herod, ordered the slaughter of all the babies, an angel told Joseph in a dream to take his family to Egypt. If an angel tells you to do something, you do it. So, the flight into Egypt was not just due to the awful circumstances caused by Herod, it is also divinely directed because of what Herod was going to do.
Also, they had to to Egypt so that the prophecy would be fulfilled:
That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called my son. (Matthew 2:15)
So, no, they Holy Family, seeking refuge in Egypt at the specific direction of God, is not the archetype of all refugees today.
If they sought refuge in Egypt, they were, in a sense, “refugees”. However, they were a) three people, not thousands and they were b) fleeing the concrete danger of murder of their Child. They sought sanctuary.
Moreover, the Holy Family were no threat to the national security of Egypt.
Finally, when the danger was over, they went home.
It is interesting to note that the Joseph of Genesis was driven into Egypt – sold as a slave and not a refugee – which led to the enslavement of the People. Joseph of the New Testament was driven into Egypt, which led to the salvation of the People. Herod and Pharaoh both ordered the slaughter of infants. Moses and Jesus both escaped slaughter in Egypt and both led an exodus from bondage.
Just because biblical figures traveled somewhere – usually because God told them to go there – that doesn’t make them refugees. Adam and Eve were not refugees from Paradise, they were being punished. Cain was not a refugee after he killed Abel, God punished him with wandering. Abraham was called by God to go places. Etc.