Dec 27, 2014

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph:"My eyes have seen your salvation"

This Sunday's Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph often raises eyebrows to some degree.  Who among all the families we know could ever reach the level of this famed Biblical family in ancient Nazareth?  With the Immaculate Conception as Mother, the Son of God as the child, and the ever patient and faithful St. Joseph as the Father of course they were holy! Some may wonder not about the importance of this unique family unit in salvation history but how could they be a model for all other more "normal" family relationships?  While, it is a beautiful pause between Christmas and New Year's Day don't all other families fall short of this Holy Family?  What can be learned?

True, on a merely graced level this family among all others were particularly protected yet still not without their challenges.  First is what both Mary and Joseph were asked to do.  How God so interrupted their lives and set those lives on a new course.  Both Mary and Joseph felt fear and insecurity, questioned this divine plan so strangely revealed to them, took a risk in saying "Yes" to God's request, had to flee in fear for their lives and that of Mary's son as Herod sent troops to Bethlehem to kill him, subjected themselves to social ridicule and family shunning and risked their own personal reputations as Mary found with child before wedding Joseph and Joseph taking Mary and her child as his own, feared for the safety of Jesus as he was lost in the Temple.  Despite their graced existence life did not spare them a share of suffering and what many parents often find themselves having to endure challenges in marriage and family life.  It's all in the Christmas story so you may want to re-read both version in Matthew 1: 19 - 25; 2: 1- 23 and Luke 2.  

Once Jesus was born, life did not become easier, though we can assume their life in Nazareth must have settled in to some sort of safe Jewish existence yet, like all of their time, having to make due with so little resources and the luxuries we take for granted today. By comparison, their lives were primitive compared to our own.

Above all that life brought to them, though, the Scriptures share much about Mary's own joy and anguish as the public ministry of Jesus began.  When he was captured and eventually murdered right before her eyes, it is hard to imagine her maternal pain and sorrow - her own passion was a share in the suffering of Jesus, as was the glory of the Resurrection. 

In all of it, their continued open heart to whatever God asked of them; their faithfulness and Mary's in particular as the ministry of Jesus developed, is both heroic and holy. 

The Gospel reading below was a very Jewish moment in Jesus life as a young baby.  Yet, also a foreshadow of Mary's own suffering along with her own son:  "And you yourself a sword shall pierce . . ."  May we all be holy as they are holy and may our marriages and families, so questioned and challenged in our day, find healing.  May all married couples, regardless of age or years, be blessed with the grace of fidelity and seek God's will for them daily.

Luke 2: 22-40

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
They took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
—and you yourself a sword will pierce—
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.