for Sunday, December 30, 2018
Jesus, Mary and Joseph are the Holy Family. Family life, in general and under the best circumstances, is a challenge to understand, even for those members living within the family. This Holy Family received messages from the Angel, experienced a virgin birth, left home and traveled to Egypt (and returned), responded to dreams, and was the custodian of the living God, Jesus. What is striking about the Holy Family is how cohesive it was, each member understanding his or her role and giving their all to fulfill it. They were all willing participants in God's divine plan. All three were moved by trust in God the Father and to welcome the salvation of the world.
The First Book of Samuel gives us another most unusual family, that of Hannah, Elkanah, and Samuel. How can we imagine a mother, who has longed for a child all her life, then giving that child away to the service of the temple? Hannah is a protagonist in an exemplary story of faith. Our modern cynicism and incredulity impede our receptiveness to such stories; but, they are given to us to show us how faith can impact our lives. A true family, in the Scriptural sense, aspires to building the family relationships in faith for the building of the kingdom of God.
The second reading is from the 1st Letter of Saint John, and speaks about how we are all children of God, reminiscent of the Gospel passage where Jesus tells us that his mother and brothers are those who hear the Word of God and put it into practice. In this sense we all belong to the Holy Family because we are brothers and sisters and mothers of the Lord Jesus. It can humble us to think about ourselves in this way. Can I really be Jesus' sister or brother? In answering this question in the affirmative, we recognize that there are no perfect families because we are not perfect. What moves us toward a perfect family is listening to Jesus, the Word, and striving to live it in our lives with faith and love.
Luke's Gospel today is the account of Jesus staying in Jerusalem and teaching in the temple when he was twelve years old. His presence and speech were attempts at family building. The scene would scandalize modern day parents. In a security obsessed world where some children able to hold a cellphone are given one for 'checking in' with parents, we can imagine the anxiety of his parents when they discover he is not with them. Yet Jesus does not apologize. His sangfroid response reminds us who He is: I must be about my Father's business.
For all of us this day, the deepest and most loving way of celebrating the Holy Family is to live as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did: doing the will of the Father with love. Doing the will of God does not come without bumps in the road, some seemingly insurmountable. Despite our weaknesses and failures as family members, let us with hope and joy strive ardently to be truly the Holy Family of Jesus here on earth. After all, parenting can be a great source of joy and an expression of holiness. Pope St. John Paul II loved skiing, theatre, and camping, especially with his youth groups, and showed the world that living holiness doesn't mean you can't have fun, too. Let us celebrate the Holy Family and earthly families who enjoy one another, persevere through the bumps and love, laugh, and, ultimately, let go as family members follow the Lord's will.
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Sirach 3.2-6, 12-14
Second Reading: Colossians 3.12-21
Gospel: Luke 2.41-52
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: