Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - December 27, 2020
Today, as we continue to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord and Savior, the Church offers us the example of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as a model of our life together in Christ. Christmas celebrates the Incarnation – the coming in the flesh – of God’s Son, who is Emmanuel, God with us, in our midst. It is only through Him that our lives together find fulfillment. The scriptures often remind us that we are called into covenant relationship with God and one another, and today they help us to see and put into practice the faith, dedication, and sacrificial love that are essential to our life together in the family of Jesus Christ.
The First Reading from the Book of Genesis tells us that “the word of the Lord came to Abraham,” and offered him and his wife Sarah a word of comfort and hope. Abraham and Sarah put their faith in the Lord, trusted his promise, and received their son (Isaac) as the child given to them in their old age. Their family attained new fullness at that moment, and as a result, from their family, countless descendants as numerous as the stars would come forth.
The 11th chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews presents a long list of the patriarchs, matriarchs, and prophets who were exemplary witnesses to the faith. Today’s Second Reading from Hebrews keeps our attention focused on Abraham and Sarah as it affirms their fidelity and trust in God. Their faith and obedience to the Lord’s call gave them an inheritance and even the ability to go forth, “not knowing where they were to go.” It would not be easy, and they would need to be ready to make the sacrifice when God commanded, but they believed that the one who made the promise was trustworthy. Down through the years, the new family, founded on the faith of Abraham, would need to follow his example.
The example of Abraham’s faith, trust, and dedication is exemplified in today’s Gospel passage from Luke. Firstly, we see it in Mary and Joseph, who, faithful to the customs and expectations of the Jewish faith, present Jesus to God in the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus will return to his Father’s house again, both as a youth and as an adult. But on this first occasion, Jesus comes as part of a family. Secondly, we see faithfulness to the God of Israel and to the traditions of the Jewish faith in Simeon and Anna, who have lived their long lives “awaiting the consolation of Israel… and the redemption of Jerusalem.” They recognize and acknowledge that their wait is over and that their hope has been fulfilled as Simeon prayerfully proclaims, “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to all the nations and glory for the people of Israel.”
The Holy Family, with Jesus at the center, represents a new family of God that continues to hear God’s call to trust and follow His Son. Like Abraham and Sarah before them, Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna witnessed the Word of God coming to fruition before their eyes. Such moments would need to be cherished – especially considering that it was not always perfect for the Holy Family. As the Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us about Jesus’ birth and childhood, they show us that life for the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus could be difficult. And yet, through it all, their love for and faithfulness to one another did not waver. The Holy Family is a model for our families as we confront the many tensions and crises that threaten the stability, peace and unity that are the joys of being a family.
Today, we appreciate that there are many ways of directing and applying our prayer and reflection on the Holy Family. As we honor the Holy Family, we do well to remember and cherish the ways we respect and honor our own families, our parish families, and especially the Church as our family of faith, where we are part of the family of Christ, beloved brothers and sisters, disciples, and children of our God and Father.
A Blessed and Happy New Year to All!