A MODEL FOR THE CHRISTIAN FAMILY
SUNDAY, CHRISTMAS OCTAVE, FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH
Reading 1: Sir3:2-6, 12-14 Sirach sets forth the Old Testament ideal of family life, an ideal that emphasizes mutual obligations and the rewards in store for those who fulfil their obligations. It is a brief commentary on the commandment to honour one’s father and mother. This entails not only obeying them when we are young, but caring for them then they get old.
Reading 2: Col 3:12-21 Paul’s ideal for family living is based on mutual love and respect for and between each member of the family. He stresses that the atmosphere of love should reign in a Christian family, with a special emphasis on mutual forgiveness.
Gospel: Mt 2: 13-15, 19-23 This relates the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt and the return to Nazareth.
Christmas, over the centuries, has been regarded as a feast celebrated with the family. And therefore, the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is celebrated every year on the Sunday that comes within its octave to present before us a model of Christian family life. When there is no Sunday, the feast is generally celebrated on December 30.
The Gospel today depicts what happened in the Temple at the time of the presentation of Jesus. Forty days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph leave Bethlehem. They faithfully stop at the Temple in Jerusalem to present Jesus to the Lord, keeping the requirement of the law in mind. In Luke’s Gospel, this is the first journey they undertake since the birth of Jesus.
The Psalmist invites us to ‘fear the Lord and walk in his ways’. Our life on this earth is a pilgrim journey, a journey to be made in the ways of the Lord. And on this journey, just like Mary and Joseph were sensitive and alert to the needs of their baby Jesus as they made their journey to the Temple, so also, in our lives, we need to be sensitive to his presence and his will on our journey. Are we alert and open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit?
Mary and Joseph come to the Temple filled with joy to offer their new-born to the Lord in accord with the Law, which stated that the first-born son belonged to the Lord who had brought his people out of Egypt and saved them (cf. Ex 13:12-15). The gift of a child is one of the greatest gifts parents receive from the Lord. Mary and Joseph come to the Temple to thank God. In time, they would come to realize that this ‘gift’ given to them will become the greatest gift of God to the whole of humanity. Am I aware of all the gifts God is blessing me with – my life, my family, my children, the roof over my head, the food I enjoy, my neighbours, my job, etc?
By the power of the Holy Spirit, Simeon recognizes Jesus as the one who would bring salvation to all humanity. Simeon had been waiting his whole life for this very moment. “Prompted by the Spirit, he came down to the temple”. At our baptism, we are made members of God’s household. Are we aware of Christ’s presence in our daily lives? Like Simeon, are we guided by God’s Spirit so that we are able to recognise goodness and truth in others? Pope Francis tells us: “The light which comes from the Holy Family encourages us to offer human warmth to other families”.
All families can identify with the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Life for them was difficult. The circumstances around them were harsh. They were forced to leave their home, and Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable. They were victims of the political and social circumstances of those times. Mary’s pregnancy could not have been easy to handle. Yet, their faithfulness to God and to each other did not waver. Being a family is often challenging and calls for us to adapt and change. It is the love of the spouses and the children that helps each one to understand, adjust with and support the other, thus conquering and surviving the obstacles and challenges that come. Are we able to see Christ’s presence in each other or do we give in to the tensions that are caused by or lead to crises? Like Simeon, can we be patient no matter how long we have to wait? Like Anna, can we always speak a word of hope to those in need of our love and affection?
Let us pray that we may keep our focus on Jesus, be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and make love, joy, peace and unity the foundations of our family life after the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 128: 1-5 Blessed are all who fear the Lord, and walk in his ways.
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