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Dec 31, 2017

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (B)


Gospel LK 2:22-40


When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
They took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
He 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,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
—and you yourself a sword will pierce—
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

Or LK 2:22, 39-40

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
they took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

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Reflecting & Living God’s Words


The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (B)
(Gen. 15:1-6; 21:1-3; Psalm 105; Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2:22-40)

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The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (B)


(Gen. 15:1-6; 21:1-3; Psalm 105; Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2:22-40)


When I read a Scripture story that begins with an expression of human need, I look for the hinge – the turning moment when God enters to say, or do something, that addresses the need.

Today’s Genesis reading is a good example. Early in the passage Abram expresses his and Sarah’s situation – they are childless. That is not what Abram and Sarah were expecting. God had called them out of Mesopotamia and promised to make them a great nation with many descendants. But at this moment, Abram doesn’t see the fulfillment of that promise. He laments to God, "See you have given me no offspring…."

Doubts come to mind when our current moment seems hopeless. Can God be relied on as a promise-keeper who will not abandon us, even though God seems to have withdrawn from the scene? "Where are you now that I need you, O God?"

Abram’s faith in God seems to be faltering. So, God makes a promise: "Then the word of the Lord came to him…." This is the moment when the narrative turns. God has not left him and is about to address the situation. Sometimes when things are at their lowest point a ray of light pierces the darkness. God is going to help Abram, not because he has shown courageous and persevering faith. Or, because he has been a shining star of goodness. No, God does for Abram what God characteristically does – gives free gifts. God will, on God’s own initiative, fulfill a promise to Abraham and Sarah. After God makes the promise, "Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness." God will finish what God has started, because God is faithful to God’s word.

Who among us can make a claim on God based on our own goodness? Most likely we feel we limp along on so-so faith. Then, when a serious need arises we hesitate, or are shy about praying, since we think only the exemplary models of faith – like some of those near us in our pews today – will get a favorable response to their prayers.

Abram and Sarah still have a long journey ahead of them and there will be trials along the way. What will sustain them as they travel and face obstacles ?They will have to trust the promise God made them: "Look up at the sky, and count the stars, if you can. Just so… shall your descendants be." That promise will travel with them as they go and be an oasis for them in very dry moments. So too for us. We trust in God’s saving presence with us as we pass through life’s desert periods. Along the way God, the promise- keeper, provides oases for us.

Jesus and Mary are a another couple who must rely on God’s word. Initially things weren’t very clear for either of them. They are within the first 40 days of Jesus’ life. Imagine the strain and exhaustion they felt, especially Mary. They had gone to Bethlehem in response to the order from Caesar (2:1) to be counted in the census. There the child was born in a poor and needy environment.

At this stage the parents must have wondered about their newborn and the promises they received about him. Now, after another journey, they are in Jerusalem to present their child to God in the Temple. Like Abram and Sarah the couple heard and awe-inspiring promise, but considering the difficulties at this stage of their journey, it must have been hard to see God’s hand in their lives. Yet, like Abram and Sarah, they trusted the promise they heard from God.

Mary and Joseph were too poor to offer a lamb when they presented Jesus in the temple, so they offered two turtledoves. Like many of the poor today, Mary and Joseph did their best to provide for their child and be faithful to their religious observances. If it had not been for the God-inspired elders, they could easily have been missed that day in the Temple. No one else but Simeon and Ana even noticed them. Which makes us wonder today if the poor in our parish are recognized, or appreciated as full- fledged members? They can’t afford the tuition for our parochial schools; don’t have enough spare time to participate in parish activities; many are not native born and so don’t speak our language well enough to attend classes, or parish meetings, so their voices often go under-recognized.

The devout elders Simeon and Anna were guided by the Spirit to recognize God’s gift to the world. They had eyes of faith and saw the blessing God was giving in the poor, young couple and the child they carried. They would recognize in the couple and the child that the Messiah was coming into the world in poverty. And still Simeon and Ana offered a blessing to God. They recognized in this poor family the gift God was giving to the world.

But we need to do more than offer a blessing for poor families. The recent tax plan approved by Congress is not a blessing for the poor. Almost all the economists who have commented on the plan say is favors the wealthy and hurts the poor and middle-class. It diminishes social investments meant to help the neediest; 13 million Americans will be without health insurance. In the future, when the deficit grows, more cuts to programs that support the needy will be caught under the rubric of "welfare reform." Cuts will probably happen to Medicaid, Medicare and other programs that help the poor.

Today we celebrate God’s gift to human kind through a child born to a poor couple. Yet today, our national policies fail to acknowledge and respond to the neediest among us. Simeon and Ana said a blessing over the child born to a poor couple. We need to do more than say blessings.

Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP