[The Holy Family, Year B, December 28, 2014, Gen 15:1-6; 21:1-3 / Ps 105:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9 / Heb 11:8, 11-12, 17-19 / Luke 2:22-40]
Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. The Scriptural readings present to us a childless couple, Abram and his wife Sarah. God gives him a new name Abraham – the Father of a host of nations. “No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations. I will render you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you.” Abraham believed the promises of God. His wife conceived because she too “believed that he who made the promise would be faithful.”
The second reading of today is taken from the letter to the Hebrews. The author of this letter praises the faith of Abraham and Sarah. What we have is a family that is listening to God and believing in his promises. The family starts to walk towards becoming a holier family. Many families today give importance to the Word of God. Listening to it, meditating it and trying to apply it to their lives. One title of the family is the “Domestic church.” In the Church the Word of God is listened to and meditated. So too in the Domestic Church. St John Chrysostom commented that if not all the family are able to go to Church then the one who goes must go home and share the Word he has listened to with all the family and all the people of the house. In this way the faith of the whole family is strengthened.
The gospel of today focuses on the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple. In the Mosaic Law it was proscribed that for 40 days after the birth of the child the mother could not enter the temple for reasons of impurity. Quite harsh really as Mother Mary was the Immaculate one. But Mary in her simplicity and obedience to the Law obliges. When she and Joseph are in the temple they present their offering – either a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons. What a small offering! Seemingly so insignificant. Probably not many would have noticed them. It would need eyes of faith to see the significance of such a small sacrifice. But God had prepared everything.
There was a man called Simeon there, who was led to the temple that day by the Holy Spirit. Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God saying that now God’s word to him was fulfilled and that his eyes had seen the salvation. When we listen to God’s Word everything changes. What is apparently an ordinary event becomes extraordinary. Simeon sees a family offering their first born to the Lord and recognizes this grace filled moment of salvation history. Mary and Joseph were amazed at what was said about their son Jesus. It makes me wonder too. Is there space in my life to be amazed at God? Can the “simple” things still inspire me? Can I see God’s presence in small details? Or am I only moved by the “big” things?
Lord, in this Octave of Christmas, we have been given a privileged time to contemplate what we have received. Teach us how to contemplate and to have faith. If not, we look at the world of today, we see the challenges to the family and we become prophets of gloom and doom. Yet you are working. The Savior has already been born. Will we recognize his coming?
Will we recognize his powerful yet often hidden presence? Open our eyes teach us how to see the “reality” as you see it. As St Paul reminds us “The reality is Christ.” As the Spanish song goes “I can’t give you a new world, but I can give you new eyes.”
Grant us new eyes to see your power and your glory, to see you working in the family. Grant us more faith in your promises. Teach us how to listen to your Word. And we pray for all families that amid all the challenges they can still strive to be holy. Amen.