Gospel for Sunday, Dec. 31: Luke 2:22-40
Feast of the Holy Family B
“22When the days of their ritual purification were fulfilled, according to the law of Moses, they brought the child to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every first-born male shall be holy to the Lord-24and to offer as a sacrifice a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons, as the law of the Lord prescribes.25Now there was a man named Simeon in Jerusalem, a righteous and godly man, who was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26The Holy Spirit had foretold him that he would not see death without first seeing the Lord’s Christ. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went to the temple, and while the parents were bringing the child Jesus there to do what the Law prescribed concerning him, 28he also received him into his arms and blessed God, saying, 29 “Now you may let your servant go in peace, O Lord, according to your word,30for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31prepared by you before all peoples: 32light to reveal you to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel.” 33Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at the things that were being said about him. 34Simeon blessed them and to Mary, his mother, he said, “Behold, he is here for the fall and the resurrection of many in Israel and as a sign of contradiction 35-and to you also a sword will pierce your soul-so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”36There was also a prophetess, Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very advanced in age, had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37was then widowed and was now eighty-four years old. She never left the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. 38At that time, she also began to praise God and spoke of the child to those who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39When they had fulfilled everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their city of Nazareth. 40The child grew and was strengthened, full of wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it). Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
We have already meditated several times on the passage of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (cf. www.spaziospadoni.org). Today we want to reflect on the significance of today’s Feast, dedicated to the Holy Family of Nazareth.
From: C. MIGLIETTA, THE FAMILY ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE. The biblical foundations of family life, Gribaudi, Milan, 2000, with an introduction by Cardinal Severino Poletto
JESUS IN THE FAMILY
“He was submissive to them…, and he grew” (Lk 2:51-52)
It cannot fail to excite and be fruitful in teaching us that the greatest event that ever happened, the very Incarnation of God, took place in the context of simplicity and feriality of a family life. Jesus, God himself made man, lives most of his life in the family, even obeying his parents: “He was submissive to them…, and grew in wisdom and age and grace before God and men” (Luke 2:51-52). He is a son who is indistinguishable from the others, doing the same humble trade as his father, and this will be a scandal to his fellow citizens when he presents himself to them as the promised Messiah: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon? And do not his sisters stand here with us?” (Mark 6:3). And we know that his whole life was redemptive, not just his passion and death: Jesus thus consecrates the family institution with his own life, and shows us at the same time how the family can and should become a place of sanctification for each of us.
The absolute primacy of God
Of Jesus’ life in the family, several aspects strike us: first, the absolute primacy of God over all other values and affections. At the age of twelve, Jesus “ran away from home” to stay in the temple among the doctors: he could have at least warned his parents, avoiding them so much anxiety and sorrow… Certainly in this Jesus does not play the part of the model son! But it is probably meant here symbolically to affirm that for every son, and all the more so for the Son of God, what counts is God alone, and his call: “Did you not know that I must deal with the things of my Father?” (Lk. 2:41-50). Every son must have no other reference than the One Fatherhood of God (Mt 23:9).
A recurring theme in Jesus’ practice is “harshness,” especially toward the mother, to reiterate the priority of the Kingdom over family affections: “A woman raised her voice in the midst of the crowd and said, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breast from which you took milk!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28); “Someone said to him, “Here are outside your mother and your brothers who want to speak to you.” And he, answering those who informed him, said, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Then stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Behold my mother, and behold my brethren; for whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, that is brother and sister and mother to me'” (Mt. 12:47-49). This is why Jesus will say, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26); and to the disciple who said to him, “Lord, allow me to go first and bury my father,” Jesus replied, “Follow me and let the dead bury their dead” (Mt 8:21-22).
“I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34).
Jesus knows that his message can bring division to families, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come
to separate the son from the father, the daughter from the mother, the daughter-in-law from the mother-in-law; and the enemies of man shall be those of his house” (Mt. 10:34-35). It is the mystery of those who do not feel welcome in their homes because of the Gospel, or are even vilified and reviled: “Brother will give brother to death, and father to son, and children will rise up against parents and cause them to die. And you will be hated by all because of my name” (Mt 10:21-22). How often a son is opposed by his father and mother for his choices for the Kingdom! How often are parents “made to die” of displeasure by their children who do not accept their example and witness of Christian life, and reject them, setting out on paths of perdition! Then the drama of children who wonder why they cannot conquer their family members with the light of the values they propose, or of parents who feel like failures, educationally speaking, because their children make different and sometimes wrong choices. May we be comforted in those moments by the Word of the Lord: we are neither asked for harmony at any cost in our families, nor that the yardstick of authenticity of our witness is whether or not our family members welcome it: we are only asked to “persevere to the end”(Mt 10:22)…
Jesus rejected by family members
Jesus himself experiences marginalization and rejection by his own family members: they are ashamed of this relative who thinks he is a prophet sent by God, who makes strange gestures, who gives speeches, who gathers crowds around him to the point that he could “not even take food” (Mk. 3:20). His own want to go get him back, to take him home; they are convinced that he is an exalted one, a fanatic, a madman: “Then his own, hearing this, went out to fetch him; for they said, ‘He is beside himself…’ His mother and brothers came, and being outside, they sent for him” (Mk. 3:21, 31). In these few words is all the drama of a heavy and painful family conflict, which so many times will be repeated later for every disciple: the relatives “standing outside,” and somehow becoming enemies of the Kingdom… Jesus will disconsolately conclude, “A prophet is not despised except in his own country, among his relatives and in his own house” (Mk. 6:4).
The conversion of Jesus’ family members
But, if it can reassure us, the family unit that so opposed Jesus during his life is converted to him after his Resurrection. Indeed, we see James, “brother of the Lord” (Mt 13:55; Gal 1:19), becoming with Peter and John one of the “pillars” of the nascent Church (Gal 2:9. 12; Acts 12:17), great moderator of the Jerusalem Council and author of its “final document” (Acts 15:13-21); and Paul visits him (Acts 21:18-26), following his advice; to James the Risen Lord reserves a special appearance, according to Paul’s own testimony (1 Cor 15:7); and James will become the author of one of the “Catholic Epistles,” named after him; according to Josephus Flavius and Hesyppus he will crown his following of Jesus with martyrdom suffered at the hands of the Jews around 62 A.D. C.. So, too, Judas, “brother of James” (Jd. 1:1), also the author of one of the Catholic Epistles, is one of the Lord’s “brothers” (Mt. 13:55), who in life so much opposed him…
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at email@example.com.