Feast of the Holy Family
(A selection of readings is possible for this feast. These comments refer to one set of readings.)
The Church always celebrates the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s Day as the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Holy Family is an example to remember, especially in our day and time when discord and strife all too often trouble families and marriages.
The Book of Genesis provides the first reading. To understand it, it is necessary to remember the relationship between God and Abraham, in the setting of human nature and of the origins of the human race. God created humans. Many scientists argue today for the theory of evolution, and various stages of development therefore are proposed, the fact still remains that God set the process in motion, so that God ultimately is the author of life for each person.
Being created by God, however, does not vest in humans, collectively or personally, any omnipotence. Every human being is limited, especially in terms of the ability to attain eternal life.
Thus, Abraham was limited, but God promised life to him, and to his descendants, if Abraham, and the descendants, would be true to God.
The story of the conception of Abraham’s heir merely underscores the power of God.
For the second reading, the Church offers us a selection from the Epistle to the Hebrews. This epistle is a marvelous work of literature, eloquent and moving in its exaltation of Jesus, the Lamb of God, the High Priest.
Again in this reading, as in the first, Abraham is central. In this passage from Hebrews, Abraham appears as a person of unyielding faith. Even when God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham’s own son, Abraham moves to obey. Then God, the giver of life, intervenes, sparing Isaac.
St. Luke’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. Only two of the four Gospels, Matthew and Luke, reveal anything about the birth and childhood of Jesus. Mark has nothing. Neither does John.
This story is about the presentation of the very young Jesus in the temple by Mary and Joseph. The story tells much about Mary and Joseph. They were quite devout. Presenting children, especially firstborn, in the temple was the Jewish ideal, but not every Jew was able to fulfill this ideal.
Simeon and Anna are important. They recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah. Their recognition was the result of the wisdom that came from their personal holiness. Only the truly faithful and holy understand things.
Abraham, Mary and Joseph, and Simon and Anna stand before us as the perfect examples of faithfulness. They persevered, even if they did not realize the object, or the details, of meeting God’s commands. Most of all, they trusted God. They had no crystal balls, but understanding their human inadequacies, they had faith in God’s love for them. He would never abandon them and leave them helpless and without reason to hope.
He loved them with an everlasting love. In this great love, to give them eternal life, God came to them, and to all humankind, in the person of the Son of God, the Savior, Jesus, son of Mary.
Reflecting on this feast of the Holy Family responds to a great practical need in our contemporary culture. No social institution now is more at risk than marriage and family. If this trend continues, humanity will reap the whirlwind.
The Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, united in love for God and in obedience to God, supplies us with the perfect example of how to live, and of the ideal family, united in God’s love.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph were one in their absolute trust in, and commitment to, God.
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