“Families are made up of Young and Old”.
The readings of today offer several points for reflection, beginning with the first reading regarding our openness to God’s will and guidance and the depth of our Faith.
The second reading reflects again on the first reading and challenges us on the sacrifices we are prepared to make for the fulfilment of God’s Kingdom.
The Gospel teaches that the Holy Family’s example for us must be our attentiveness to God’s Word and Will. The family is the cradle of faith, handing on the Christian story, teaching the basics of loving relationships with each other and the proper relationship we have with God, our Creator.
Guide to ‘Live’ the Sunday Liturgy:
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
If at all possible, share this Bible Reflection time with a family member, a friend or someone you wish to bring to Christ. Jesus said in Mt. 18:20 – “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests, bishops and Catholic theologians who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a ‘Prayer’ are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. With faith and perseverance, we will start to put into practice the Lord’s teachings; begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love, God’s will, and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator. Meditations and Prayer on the Reflections should be done daily – first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.
It may be necessary to pray and repeat the study of the Bible Readings and Commentaries more than once, or even on a daily basis, if you feel that you have not yet grasped the Lord’s special message for you.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3.
Your heir shall be your own flesh and bloodThe word of the Lord was spoken to Abram in a vision, ‘Have no fear, Abram, I am your shield; your reward will be very great.’‘My Lord,’ Abram replied ‘what do you intend to give me? I go childless…’. Then Abram said, ‘See, you have given me no descendants; some man of my household will be my heir.’ And then this word of the Lord was spoken to him, ‘He shall not be your heir; your heir shall be of your own flesh and blood.’ Then taking him outside he said, ‘Look up to heaven and count the stars if you can. Such will be your descendants’ he told him. Abram put his faith in the Lord, who counted this as making him justified.The Lord dealt kindly with Sarah as he had said, and did what he had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the time God had promised. Abraham named the son born to him Isaac, the son to whom Sarah had given birth.
In beginning his work of salvation in human history, God wants at least one person to share his secret and to know the depth of his designs. Abraham believed in God totally. Though such faith, God’s eternal decree lodges in the mind and heart of one believer and this is worth more than many good works. From that moment on, a mysterious complicity will unite Abraham and God forever: this is the Covenant.
God makes a Covenant with Abraham according to the customs of that time. When signing a pact, both parties would pass between the two halves of a sacrificed animal. Abraham follows this ritual and as for God, there passes through a fire which represents God. It is God, who commits himself and makes the promise. Abraham proves his worth by believing in the promises which are seemingly unattainable. Abraham’s Covenant with God is the beginning of a reciprocal friendship.
What is the meaning of God making a Covenant with humans? God loves all men and women and he wants to save them all even when they don’t know him. He also wants to bring the human race to spiritual maturity. For this to come about, at least a minority of people in the world must have encountered God in a personal way, since this meeting, an encounter, will be the start of humanity’s most valuable experience. This is how, throughout history, God calls whom he has chosen according to his plan and eternal selection. In making a pact or a Covenant with them, he gives them the opportunity to enter into a life of faithfulness.
The first family histories in the Bible are the stories of the Patriarchs. The first and most important of these was Abraham. At his call, God promised him family and land. He was old and his wife Sarah was beyond the age of child-bearing. How could one who was childless become the father of many nations? God merely confirmed his promise: let him look at the stars in the sky; such would be the number of his descendants. Abraham believed and was justified. This account signifies that God’s undertaking with human beings is totally gratuitous. He promises his blessing without setting any conditions, without asking for anything in exchange. The promised son is finally born, which defies human wisdom and the natural laws of procreation.
This is clear proof that this is entirely the work of God and his free gift of his love and fidelity. According to Paul, the quality of Abraham’s faith made him the father of all believers. This is an important point in the theology of Paul about faith. To believe means to put ones trust in God even when there is no concrete evidence that God will act. It is a basic attitude of mind that every true Christian must adopt. There will be other persons born in circumstances similar to those of Isaac’s birth, such as Jacob, Samuel and John the Baptist and finally the Messiah from Mary, a virgin mother.
Psalm 105: 1-6. 8-9.
The Psalm is a call to thanks giving and belief that the God, who called Abraham and gave him Isaac, remains faithful to his promises. Despite past infidelity, Israel can always call on God and hope to be heard. This applies to the new people of God and all men and women.
Hebrews 11:8. 11-12. 17-19.
The faith of Abraham and of SarahIt was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going. It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it. Because of this, there came from one man, and one who was already as good as dead himself, more descendants than could be counted, as many as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore.It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He offered to sacrifice his only son even though the promises had been made to him and he had been told: It is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. He was confident that God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given back Isaac from the dead.
In the second reading the author of Hebrews writes to Christians in crisis. He mingles lofty doctrine with practical warnings and exhortations. He appeals to the example of the great ancestors of Israel. They found themselves in situations where human resources were insufficient. God remembered them and these blessings were proof of realities that we cannot see or many times comprehend. Abraham and Sarah could only rely on God. Though the outcome seemed impossible, Abraham obeyed God’s call. Sarah, though passed the age of child-bearing, believed in the power of God to give her the gift of a child. Although Isaac was Abraham’s and Sarah’s only son and their hope for the fulfilment of God’s promise, Abraham was still prepared to sacrifice their son to God. Such was the extent of Abraham’s trust in God.
My eyes have seen your salvationWhen the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace,just as you promised;because my eyes have seen the salvationwhich you have prepared for all the nations to see,a light to enlighten the pagansand the glory of your people Israel.’As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’There was a prophetess also, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.
Luke takes great care to show that the principle characters linking the time before the Messiah with that of the time of the Messiah; were people who were faithful to the religious tradition of Israel and observed them carefully. Zechariah and Elizabeth are described as righteous before God, and faithful to the commandment of God. Zechariah is a faithful priest and one day as he fulfils his priestly duties an angel tell him of the birth of his son John. Simeon is a devout and upright man looking forward to the coming of the Messiah as is Anna, an old prophetess who is faithful to her fasting and prayer in the Temple. Mary and Joseph too faithfully observe what the Law requires of them, That the mother be purified and that the firstborn son be presented to the Lord and redeemed through an offering. In their faithful adherence to religious tradition they help to bring the messianic hopes of many to fruition.
The ‘Presentation in the Temple’ occurred forty days after Jesus’ birth. The Son of God entered his own Temple, the visible house of His Father on earth. God-made-man, Christ the divine Son, fills the Temple with his presence, both divine and human. This mystery signifies not only the mission of Christ, to be totally dedicated to his Father, but also that Jesus Himself is the great Temple of God. In the Temple, they meet two aged ‘Anawim’, the poor of Israel who put all their trust in God. Their sanctity and age remind us of Abraham and Sarah. The Spirit prompted Simeon to prophesy about the future of the child, of Israel, of Mary herself. Using language familiar from Deutero-Isaiah, he declared that the child personified the salvation that God intended for all the nations.
For Israel, his message was a mixture of comfort and lament, although this child would bring about the rising of many, it would also be a sign of contradiction and rejection for others. The first preaching of Jesus in Nazareth (4:16-30) and indeed the rest of Luke’s Gospel and Acts demonstrate the truth of this prophesy. As for Mary herself, Simeon saw how in the future a ‘sword would pierce her heart’. Mary’s role in the life of Jesus was not only that of mother but that of follower. As a disciple, many things would happen to her which she would not understand. An example is the next incident in the Gospel, when her child was lost in Jerusalem and she failed to grasp what his explanation meant, (2:41-50).
Often in Luke, a story about a man is followed by another involving a woman. Once Simeon had uttered his prophesy, Anna, an aged widow and prophetess, met Jesus. Like Simeon, she typifies Luke’s respect for the Old Testament and the piety of old Israel. She is also a link between the Old and the New.
She prayed and praised God and spoke of Jesus and the deliverance of Israel. She was the first of the devout widows in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus was awaited not only by the holy men of Israel but also by holy women. Now the Spirit opens the hearts of both men and women to proclaim Jesus as Messiah and as the Light of Israel and of all Nations. There is a wonderful balance between the male and the female, between the roles of men and women, in the way the story is told. Luke wants to show that the message of Jesus is equally relevant for both men and women of all times.
In some African circles, the woman is discriminated against. She does not have an influential position in society and her word is not taken seriously. Luke’s way of telling his story challenges such discrimination against women. Knowledge of the Messiah is not reserved to a select group but is available to all who seek God with a sincere heart, men and women alike. Anybody, irrespective of gender or social standing, can be led by the Spirit to challenge us out of our mediocrity to welcome the Messiah and allow him to bring new Light into darkness.
To his Jewish readers, Luke wants to demonstrate how Christian faith is an extension of their Jewishness. Joseph and Mary shared the faith of their people. It was from this faith that they were to accept the fuller revelation of God in the person of Jesus. Their new vocation did not cut them off from their people but rather brought them closer to them.
The mystery of Jesus’ presentation has the meaning of total dedication in our lives. Jesus comes to fulfil what God’s design has established for him. We come to our Christian Temple, the Church, with the same spirit of dedication and self-sacrifice to fulfil God’s divine plan for our own calling in life.
If, like Mary and Joseph, we are truly faithful to our religious tradition, God will lead us beyond it to discover him in new ways.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the Feast of the Holy Family Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … God loves all men and women and he wants to save them all even when they don’t know him. He also wants to bring the human race to spiritual maturity. Do we open up our hearts to God’s graces in order to do his will or do we willingly keep him out of our lives by our foolish pride, selfishness and our lack of gratuitous love? Are we stubborn in carrying our will no matter what the cost?
Mon. … To truly believe means to put ones trust in God even when there is no concrete evidence that God will act. It is a basic attitude of mind that every true Christian must have. To believe once you have seen is not faith at all! We all need to strengthen our Covenant with God, the Covenant of our Baptism and Confirmation.
Tues. … Despite past infidelity, Israel can always call on God and hope to be heard. This applies to the new people of God and all men and women. God is a God of Love, Compassion and Forgiveness. He is our Good Shepherd. When we are lost, he will seek us out until he finds us and call on us to follow him home.
Wed. … Abraham obeyed God’s call. Sarah, though passed the age of child-bearing, believed in the power of God to give her the gift of a child. Although Isaac was Abraham’s and Sarah’s only son and their hope for the fulfilment of God’s promise. Abraham’s trust in God was so great that he was still prepared to sacrifice their son to God knowing that God would keep his promise. What sacrifices are we prepared to make for the fulfilment of God’s kingdom?
Thurs. … Simeon declared that the child Jesus personified the salvation that God wanted for all nations. Is our faith truly Catholic and universal? Do we welcome all brothers and sisters into our Church with no discrimination.
Frid. … Through the example of the Holy Family we learn to truly love, trust, share and respect others. We become aware of the rights of others, how to handle conflict, the healing power of love and forgiveness, the importance of fidelity and to endure the difficulties of life. We learn to be always thankful and not to take each other for granted. The family is the cradle of faith, handing on the Christian story, teaching the basics of loving relationships with each other and the proper relationship we have with God, our Creator.
Sat. …The Holy Family’s example for us must be their attentiveness to God’s Word and will – in a visitation by an angel, in a dream, always willing to move in the direction that God prompts. They were not a model family living a perfect existence. They were a true family who faced real challenges and suffering in their lives, and from the start, they were always ready to follow the will of their Lord no matter what the sacrifice might be.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Heavenly Father, may we always strive to play a meaningful role in promoting the values that the Holy Family had in our own lives. Through the values of the Holy Family, prayer and Your Gospel and our unconditional love for each other, may we became part of ‘Your Family’ developing the ‘Kingdom of God’ here on earth.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.