Feast of the Holy Family – Fr. Rick Sherman
December 27, 2020
Gn 15:1-6; 21:1-3; PS 128:1-2, 3, 4-5.; Heb 11:8, 11-12, 17-19; LK 2:22-40
The readings today help us understand a lot about the role of families in the community, but also the place of families in the 4000 years of Judeo-Christian culture. They remind us that the Holy Family was not just an accident of history or an isolated event, but part of a deliberate plan from God to save ALL people. We recall the very familiar story of Abraham and Sarah having a child in old age beyond any reasonable expectation and that their destiny was to be the Father and Mother of a dynasty. Of course, as human beings, they had their own plan first, but God redirected them to the much larger Godly vision. They needed to follow by faith and not by their strong will or good ideas.
The Gospel especially reminds us of the importance of traditions passed down from the generations and the need to mark the important stages of faith and mission with special rituals. Jesus was presented at the temple for consecration as a sign and commitment that Jewish children are not just the property of their genetic parents but are part of the dynasty with a larger purpose. Without common rituals that everyone takes seriously, the whole tradition breaks down and the mission is imperiled.
As essential as committed parents are, they need the help of the whole tribe or community to prepare for the mission.
Notice Anna’s role in the story “who never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” To speak to all over years and years shows Anna’s commitment to telling others about the child’s role in their history. She is a sort of missionary like the women who met Jesus at the tomb and then went forth and proclaimed His resurrection.
Simeon specifically identifies Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, the source of peace, the glory of Israel, a Light for the Gentiles and the Salvation of the World. Simeon kept the consecration in the immediate context of salvation history with his pronouncement, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted —and you yourself a sword will pierce — so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Not exactly a warm and fuzzy, feel-good line to send the folks off to cake, punch and photos. The seriousness of the plan and mission was very much a part of the ritual.
Mary and Joseph were amazed at what was being said about their child and pondered over their words. They knew He was destined for something special, but to have it so succinctly affirmed by the older members of the community made it a more profound experience. Simeon and Anna give us good examples of how to be faithful members of a Christian community and how to help our youth grow in faith and identity. When a whole people is sent forth, there needs to be lots of cohesive teachings and guidance. I was recently reminded of the ancient proverb, “It takes two to have a child and a whole community to raise a child.” So, it follows that we are all called to help encourage one another to grow in our Christian identity and accept our life mission in Christ.
Please take your missalettes this week and reread today’s gospel. Consider the roles played by different members of the Holy Family’s
We might consider these questions offered by Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg in his book of commentaries:
Who needs you to speak a message of faithful encouragement and inspiration to them?
What are simple ways in which you can encourage and support children in their Christian discipleship?
Also, in a new apostolic letter, Patris Corde, Pope Francis has declared a Year of St. Joseph in honor of the 150th anniversary of the saint’s proclamation as patron of the Universal Church. The year began on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and concludes on Dec. 8, 2021. This letter can greatly assist our understanding and proper living out of the role of father in a Christian household.
This Apostolic Letter is linked on our website.