We rejoice within this Octave of Christmas and celebrate exultantly the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, has entered into our time, history, lives and families and assumed them to transform them and to give them meaning. It is most fitting that the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, model of all families, be celebrated within the Octave of Christmas.
In the Holy Family of Nazareth, God in his goodness has given us the preeminent example of family life. The readings of today lead us to ponder the virtues and values reflected by the Holy Family which we are called to imitate so that we may one day delight in the eternal rewards of Heaven.
Given that the Holy Family descended from Abraham, whom the biblical tradition presents to us as “our father in faith,” it is no surprise that in this liturgical Cycle B we are given the exemplary faith of Abraham to ponder in both the first and second readings. While we admire Abraham’s faith, which is a commendable response to God’s self-revelation, it is important that we focus more of our attention on God’s initiative of love. It is not we who have loved God in the first place. It is rather God who calls us first. He enters into a loving and lasting relationship with us. This relationship is confirmed in the sacred covenant that he established. Today’s Responsorial Psalm reminds us that “the Lord remembers his covenant forever.” This is what Abraham experienced in the first reading: the Lord made a covenant with him and has always remembered it. In time, God finally blessed Abraham and his wife Sarah with the long-awaited son of the promise, Isaac.
But it was a long wait! The feelings of weariness, despondency and uncertainty lurked around Abraham. He did not yield to these temptations but “put his faith in the LORD, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.” The Letter to the Hebrews proclaims that Abraham’s faith in God remained unwavering. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go.” What a great faith in God! Hebrews tells us further that he did not hesitate to offer up the son that was given to him after the long wait, trusting that God was more powerful even than death.
So, in Abraham we clearly see a life of extraordinary faith in God’s love and care, a life of total surrender to God’s will. These are the virtues mirrored by Mary and Joseph in today’s Gospel. Like Abraham, Mary and Joseph put their trust in the Lord. This was the basis for their respect and obedience to God’s law, as they presented the Child Jesus in the Temple “in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.”
The aspect of the life of the Holy Family that is highlighted this year is obedience to God’s law. When we choose in faith to obey the Lord, it is not out of fear or slavish constraint. Rather it is an expression of our faith and trust in God who loves us. God has chosen us and revealed his fatherly love for us as his children. The right response of the members of his family is to trust and obey him. We respond to God’s initiative of love by faith. This, in practice, means ready submission to his holy will and observance of his law. If every family strives to be oriented towards God, to serve him and do his will, the result will be peace, harmony and joy in the whole human family. As we journey in faith, guided by the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the powerful intercession of St. Joseph, we follow the process by which the Child Jesus himself grew: “we grow and become strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God is upon us.”
In my ponderings, do I focus on God’s initiative of love and how he has loved and called me first? Is my faith as strong as Abraham’s when weariness, despondency and uncertainty lurk around me? Is my response to God’s love a ready submission to his holy will and observance of his law?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 1. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.