Sunday, Dec. 31, is the feast of the Holy Family. Mass Readings: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 or Genesis 15:1-6, 21:1-3; Psalm 128:1-5 or Psalm 105:1-6, 8-9; Colossians 3:12-17 or 12-21 or Hebrews 11:8,11-12, 17-19; Luke 2:22-40 or 2:22, 39-40.
In the popular song Imagine, John Lennon invites us to picture life without countries, religion or possessions. I don’t like the lyrics to the song, as I’ve pointed out before.
But I know one thing no one can imagine being without: the family. Everyone had a family at some point, and those who have no family long for a family of their own.
The readings for this Holy Family Sunday invite us to imagine life without a family — and offer hope to those who have no family.
The Gospel tells the story of Baby Jesus being brought to the Temple to be presented to the Lord. His family does all that is asked of them in the Law.
At the Temple, they encounter two people, Simeon and Anna, who stand for many other figures who have no family. One of the most famous childless couples of all time is the subject of one of the possible first and second readings: Abraham.
In the first reading, the word of the Lord comes to Abraham saying, “I will make your reward very great.”
He answers back: “O Lord God, what good will your gifts be, if I keep on being childless?”
God answers, “Look up at the sky, and count the stars, if you can. Just so shall your descendants be.”
The second reading from Hebrews praises Abraham’s response: “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.”
Because of two acts of faith — leaving his home for God and being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac — he was blessed with descendants “countless as the sands on the seashore.”
Children are the greatest blessing available in the Old Testament, with good reason: They are companions and souls to help us get to heaven.
But Simeon and Anna in today’s Gospel do not get the gift of children. They get the gift of meeting Christ.
First, Simeon “took him into his arms and blessed God, saying, ‘Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples.’”
Then Anna, who only lived with her husband for seven years before living as a widow to age 84, praying in the Temple, met the baby and “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”
These two did much the same thing Abraham did — and what each of us can do. They left their home for God, offered up their children or the children they never had, and received Christ Jesus in return.
Tom Hoopes is writer
in residence at
Benedictine College and
author of The Fatima