Feast of the Holy Family
A selection of readings is possible for this feast. These comments refer to one set of readings.
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 for various stages of development. The fact remains that God set the entire process in motion. God ultimately is the author of life for each person.
Being created by God, however, does not vest in humans, collectively or personally, 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 they would be true to God. The story of the conception of Abraham’s heir merely underscores the power and mercy of God.
For the second reading, the Church offers a selection from the Letter to the Hebrews. This letter 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, treasured 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 says nothing. Neither does John.
This story is about the presentation of the very young Jesus in the temple by Mary and Joseph. It tells much about Mary and Joseph. First, 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 resulted from the wisdom that came from their personal holiness. The lesson is that only the truly faithful and holy understand things.
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.
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 to predict the future, but 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 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.
No family formed in the likeness of the Holy Family will be in peril.
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