Sunday Scripture readings: Dec. 31, 2017

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

First reading: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 or Gn 15:1-6; 21:1-3

Responsoral Psalm: 128:1-5 or 105:1-6, 8-9

Second reading: Col 3:12-21 or Heb 11:8, 11-12, 17-19

Gospel: Lk 2:22-40

By Jem Sullivan

“Every family should look to the icon of the Holy Family of Nazareth,” writes Pope Francis in the apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.” On this feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, God’s word invites such reflection on the joys, responsibilities and challenges of family life in the light of Christian faith and discipleship.

The duty of gratitude to parents for the gift of life is described in the Book of Sirach as a source of harmony and peace in family life and society. For “respect toward parents fills the home with light and warmth,” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches (No. 2219).

Sacrifices — great and small — that a child makes to honor and care for parents is praiseworthy. Moreover, there is a special gratitude for the gift of faith due to parents and grandparents whose example and witness to lived faith endures from one generation to the next.

The author of Sirach also reminds us that God is the source of the authority of parents. For in the words of Sirach, “God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons” (3:2). God strengthens parents with wisdom to care for and raise their children, and guides children in the way of honor and respect for aging parents.

Abraham and Sarah are presented as models of faith in God who received the gift of Isaac in their old age. Beyond their childbearing years, Abraham and Sarah put their faith in God’s word. Not knowing where they were to go or how their needs would be provided for, these models of faith trusted the power of God’s word and were blessed with the gift of life in Isaac.

It is the faith of Abraham and Sarah that we are called to imitate as we strive to be missionary disciples of Jesus. Putting our faith in God’s word will bring new life to our hearts, minds and families.

The same entrusting faith in God led Mary and Joseph to present the child Jesus in the Temple, as described in the Gospel. In the sacred space of the Temple, holy men like Simeon, and holy women like Anna the prophetess, recognized the presence of the Son of God and expressed their faith in God with prayers of praise and thanksgiving.

Their witness to faith inspires us as we contemplate the icon of the Holy Family of Nazareth who teaches us to say in faith, “speak to me, Lord.”

Reflection Question:

How is the Holy Family of Nazareth an icon of faith, hope and love in the midst of the joys, responsibilities and challenges of family life?

Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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