Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14 or Genesis 15: 1-6, 21:1-3
Colossians 3: 12-21
Luke 2: 22-40
"The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him."
The Feast of the Holy Family, coming as it does right after Christmas, reminds us of the total humanity of Christ. The miracle of Christmas is that Christ was born fully human. But this belief and the simplicity of the stable are sometimes belied by our celebrations as we see the Nativity scene portrayed in great glory and our churches bedecked in glorious adornment. And while it is fitting that we give great emphasis and glory to the Christmas celebration, the feast of the Holy Family highlights Jesus’ total humanity.
So think now of this humble Jewish family. Picture the Christ Child in Mary’s arms being presented at the temple — an ordinary act of an ordinary family. Isn’t it easy to identify with the parents, Mary and Joseph, as they embark on raising their child? As parents or as our parents’ children, we can empathize with the love, joy, pride and fear that Mary and Joseph must have felt.
Mary must have held the baby close to her heart and we can visualize Joseph in a protective stance as they hear the words of Simon. They must have wondered just what was he saying would happen to their little baby?
Our faith is based on the miracle, not of a stable that witnessed Divinity, but of a Divinity that totally embraced humanity, thereby embracing each of us and bringing salvation to all periods of human life. God tells us this by not choosing to suddenly appear on a cloud, or as a mature, wise elder, but rather being born and raised in the loving bosom of an ordinary family–a simple, humble family dealing with many of the same pains and sorrows that every family faces. Jesus took on not only the form of a man but the emotions, the growth, the learning and the connectedness that come from being part of a family. How God must love us to give us this gift!
Mary Lou Butler is a member of the board at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.