The Holy Family Teaches Us That Love of Neighbor Begins at Home
User’s Guide to Sunday, Dec. 27, the feast of the Holy Family
Sunday, Dec. 27, is the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Mass Readings: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128:1-5; Colossians 3:12-21; Luke 2:22-40.
Last week, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we heard about the fidelity of God and his promise to David. This promise was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, which we celebrated just a few days ago. This Sunday, we celebrate fidelity as well, the fidelity of and within the family.
The first reading is from Sirach, who tells us how parents are set over their children by God. Therefore, one who honors and reveres his or her parents “atones for sins” and “stores up riches.” Sirach says that even if a father’s “mind fail, be considerate of him.” This is what fidelity means within the family. The Psalmist tells us that family itself is a gift from the Lord. We read that “children are like olive plants around your table,” for “those who fear the Lord and walk in his way.” Thus, fidelity to God is rewarded by and through family.
In the Gospel, we learn that we should respond to the gift of family with greater fidelity to God. St. Luke tells us that St. Joseph and Our Lady take the newborn Baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, many miles away from Bethlehem in order to be faithful to the Law of God — despite the great sacrifice such obedience entails. The Holy Family’s fidelity is confirmed by the witnesses of Simeon and Anna.
Simeon’s steadfast fidelity to God had given him long life so that he might one day see the Messiah. On that day in the Temple, he took the Baby Jesus in his arms and praised the Lord for his faithfulness to him and to the people of Israel. Anna was a widow whose fidelity to God was manifested through her constant presence in the Temple, where she “worshipped night and day with fasting and prayer.” Though they are without spouses, both Simeon and Anna are blessed because of their past fidelity to their own families and to God.
Their faithfulness and that of the Holy Family is possible thanks to what St. Paul tells us in his Letter to the Colossians. The Christian, he tells us, should show “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,” but “over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” This love, says St. Paul, is proper for the family, most especially so that wives and husbands love each other and their children.
Therefore, as we continue to celebrate Christmas, let us not forget that love is not seasonal.
Rather, it is a way of life for the Christian, who, having received the mercy of God, allows that mercy to inspire love of all. This love of neighbor starts in the home. The family, the Church teaches us, is the fundamental cell of society. It is there that we learn how to love well, how to love with the “heartfelt compassion” about which St. Paul speaks. So we pray that we may love those within our own families, that we may be faithful to them, and in doing so love God well. We pray that this love spills over so that we might better witness Christ’s love for the whole world, a world into which he entered as a baby in a family.