Luke 2:22-40
Holy Family
by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Written by Luke to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.  This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  so all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.  There Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judah, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed. who was with child.  While they were there, the time came fro her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manager, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping their night watch over their flock.  The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.  The angel said to them "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For today in the city David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."  And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

The solemnity of the Holy Family, which most appropriately falls within the Octave of Christmas, gives us a chance to pause during our holiday celebrations and prayerfully ponder the supreme importance of the family.  Genesis, the first book of the Bible, reveals fundamental truths about God's plan for human beings as the very pinnacle of his mighty act of creation.  Genesis proclaims with all simplicity and profundity that God made us in his image and likeness, setting us apart from all the rest of creation as "very good."  It makes clear that we were made quite intentionally as male and female by the Lord of heaven and earth and bestowed with the supreme gift of allowing the love of husband and wife to imitate his love and bring new life into this world.  Children, the fruit of marital love, are privileged to be given the opportunity to share in the very life and love of the holy Trinity for all eternity.  These gifts of marriage, love and family are at the very essence of our existence.  They are fundamental and irreplaceable.  They are unchanging and wonderful to behold.

It is no surprise then that when God chose to send his only begotten son down to earth to redeem the world from sin, teach us the path to the fullness of life and make known the depths of his love, God sent his Son to live in a family.  In fact, Jesus spent 30 of his 33 years on this earth dwelling in the home of Mary and Joseph.  In that blessed home, Jesus grew in wisdom, age and grace, all the while being obedient to Mary and Joseph.

The example of the Holy Family proclaims, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, "The family is the privileged setting where every person leans to give and receive love . . .  The family is an intermediate institution between individuals and society, and nothing can completely take its place . . .  The family is a necessary good for peoples, an indispensable foundation for society and a great and lifelong treasure for couples.  It is a unique good for children, who are meant to be the fruit of love, of the total and generous self-giving of their parents . . .  The family is also a school that enables men and women to grow to the full measure of their humanity."

Secondly, this great feast speaks to us about faith.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph are the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, our father in faith.  Abraham was told by God that, in spite of being old and childless, his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens.  Abraham surprisingly put his faith in God who credited to him as an act of righteousness.  Nine months later, Isaac was born.

Mary and Joseph become the parents of Jesus as a result of tremendous acts of faith.  Mary responds most courageously to the Angel Gabriel's offer in the face of fear, confusion and being deeply troubled..  Joseph responds positively in faith to the angel who appears to him in a dream and invites him to change his course and take Mary into his home.  Faith in God and trust in his marvelous plans are blessings to every home and to every family.  Faith enables us to manage the many challenges that families face.  Faith gives ultimate purpose and meaning to our lives and builds up those virtues that enable the family to thrive and come to the fullness of life.

Thirdly, our Gospel for today demonstrates the goodness of God who is quick to encourage us on life's journey.  Mary and Joseph go, according to custom, to the temple on the 40th day in order to present Jesus to the Lord. The Lord sends them the righteous and devout Simeon who takes the child in his arms and lifts i[ a wonderful prayer of praise to God who is fulfilling both Old Testament and personal promises with the gift of this child who is to be the salvation of the world, a light to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel.  This must have been a moment of profound encouragement for Mary and Joseph as they begin their intimidating role as mother and foster father to the Son of God.  Their lives would be filled with more suffering and unexplainable moments than any other family.  This reassuring event at the start would carry them through many challenging times including the impending flight to Egypt.

The Holy Family speaks to us about the supreme importance of family and faith.  How has God been encouraging you lately?