The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.” Entrance Antiphon: Lk 2:16 — “The shepherds went in haste, and found Mary and Joseph and the Infant lying in a manger.” First Reading: Gn 15:1-6; 21:1-3 — “Your own issue shall be your heir.” Responsorial Psalm: Ps 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9 — “The Lord remembers His covenant forever.” Second Reading: Heb 11:8, 11-12, 17-19 — “The faith of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac.” Alleluia: Heb 1:1-2 — Alleluia, alleluia. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, He has spoken to us through His Son.” Alleluia, alleluia. Gospel: Lk 2:22-40 — “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.” Communion Antiphon: Bar 3:38 — “Our God has appeared on the earth, and lived among us.” The Christmas Season is a time of surprises, and not just the surprises we find when unwrapping our presents from underneath the Christmas tree. There are other surprises that can easily go unnoticed because they are right there in front of us every Christmas. These are the surprises found in the story of the Nativity of Jesus … the Messiah … the Christ-Child. These surprises come to us from a God who seems to enjoy surprises, and we can join in with Him if we are willing to hear the Scriptures with fresh ears. The first surprise is that God chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Consider this: Imagine for a moment you were God. Who among us when faced with a problem would choose a solution that would take centuries to work out? How many of us would choose a solution that involves people who were just as likely not to follow instructions as to follow them? Or how many of us would choose individuals completely unqualified to play key roles in the project? I doubt that, when faced with those options, any of us would. Instead, I think most of us would simply force a resolution upon all peoples and all of creation whether they liked it or not. No messing around … just solve the problem. Fortunately, God is not like us. Our God is a God of creation … a God of patience and mercy … and a God who likes to surprise us. When confronted with a creation that had gone astray, God chose a family to begin His work of healing. This healing brings salvation for all people. This healing brings salvation from our obsessions with power, self-glorification, consumption, and distraction. In God’s infinite wisdom, the family was the proper tool to accomplish this. Thus God chose a childless couple, Abram and Sarai, and made a promise to them that their child would be the first of a new nation. These two people put their faith and their trust in that promise, and so they would become Abraham and Sarah, the parents of the nation to which Jesus, Mary, and Joseph belonged. A nation that, despite its waywardness and many indiscretions, somehow kept the faith alive over forty-two generations. The second surprise was that God likes to come in the most unlikely manner. Many in the Temple that Mary and Joseph entered to consecrate Jesus believed that their Savior, their Messiah, would come in power, glory, and might. How else were the Romans to be expelled from their land, the false king Herod overthrown, and the priesthood purified? Such tasks would require a great, heroic figure, right? But that’s not what God had in mind. No, God entered the Temple as a rather helpless infant. Now, who was going to notice that? Well, surprise! Then there were Simeon and Anna, who through years and years of devotion and God’s grace were able to see the surprise that God had in store for His people. Jesus, though He was just a baby, was to be a light to all people and would bring redemption along with contradiction. To see that in the child Jesus must have been a surprise to everyone in the Temple that day. Even Mary and Joseph must have been shocked to discover their secret was out. God, all the while, must have been smiling about the surprise that had just been sprung. Our families here and now today in 2020 can learn much from these readings. What surprise does God hold in store for you and your family? If God can work through such unlikely people as Abram and Sarai and Simeon and Anna, God can surely work through you or a family member just as easily. Maybe if we look at one another as potential candidates for God’s surprising work, we might be amazed at what we see. So let’s trust and have faith in ourselves and in our families, flawed though they may be, and allow the Christian promise to come out. Perhaps then this will truly be a blessed Christmas Season. May God keep you and your families safe and well!