Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 | Colossians 3:12-21 | Luke 2:22-40
The Gospel passage from Luke offers us a profound and beautiful glimpse into the early life of Jesus and the devout individuals who recognized and welcomed him as the long-awaited Messiah. As the gospel story opens, we find Mary and Joseph observing the post-birth rituals proclaimed in the Hebrew scriptures. Following the circumcision of the child and the purification of his mother, they now come to the temple to present their son to God and offer sacrifice for his redemption. Luke does not present an idyllic picture but rather clearly points out that the impoverished parents of Jesus are very human and realistic and could only offer two young pigeons as the redemptive sacrifice for their son.
When Mary and Joseph arrive at the temple, they are met by an elderly man who reaches out to hold the month-old baby. Praising God, Simeon proclaims that this baby is the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Messiah not only for the Jewish people but for all nations. A devout and religious man, Simeon was promised that he would not die until he saw the Messiah and recognizes the long-awaited Messiah in the humble form of a child. In our own lives, we are called to be attentive to the signs of God’s presence in our midst and to be open to encountering him in unexpected ways and places.
Anna is also an important part of this gospel story but can be easily overlooked as there are only a few verses attributed to her. Anna was eighty-four years of age, an extraordinary age in a society where the average life expectancy was forty. Moreover, she was widowed at an early age, which left her without any social status in a patriarchal society. Anna, like Simeon, anticipated the coming of the Messiah and, by personal and special revelation from God, recognized his presence in the baby presented in the temple by Mary and Joseph. Anna, however, did not keep this revelation to herself but “spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). When we encounter Jesus in our life of faith and prayer, do we share our experience with others?
As we are coming to the close of the Christmas season, this gospel passage from Luke reminds us of the significance of Jesus’ birth and the universal impact of his life and teachings. It reinforces the belief that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise and emphasizes the importance of recognizing and embracing Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, whose coming brings hope, redemption, and light to the world.
Sr. Mary T. Flood, OP