Sunday Scripture reading, Dec. 26, 2021: A holy family
By Jem Sullivan Catholic News Service
Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
1) Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 or 1 Sm 1:20-22, 24-28
Psalm 128:1-5 or 84:2-3, 5-6, 9-10
2) Col 3:12-21 or 1 Jn 3:1-2, 21-24
Gospel: Lk 2:41-52
Biblical families experienced the struggles and challenges faced by many families.
In Genesis, Adam and Eve are torn apart as they turn away from the harmony of the original unity of love in the friendship God offered to them. Their sons are engulfed by jealousy as Cain, a farmer, murders his shepherd brother Abel, whose sacrifice found favor with God.
After God’s saving protection from the mighty flood, the sons of Noah discover their father in a state of drunken nakedness. Then Joseph is sold by his brothers in their petty jealousy that led them to plot the murder of their own flesh and blood.
And the king of Israel, David, ensures the battlefield killing of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, who was pregnant with David’s child. In these and numerous other Old Testament stories, families struggle with the consequences of human infidelity and sin.
Today the church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. As the graces of Christmas continue to echo within our hearts, we reflect on the wondrous gift of the incarnation of God in the newborn child Jesus. On this feast of the Holy Family, we ponder the close bonds of familial love that held Jesus, Mary and Joseph together.
God sent his divine son, Jesus, not as a self-sufficient and powerful individual, but as a poor, humble child born into a close-knit human family that raised, nourished and educated him. God sent his own son into a human family so that Jesus transforms, with his divine love and power, the heart of every family, burdened by sinfulness, weakness and failures of every kind.
In the first reading from Sirach, we hear of divine blessings on those who honor father and mother. For “whoever honors his father atones for sins and preserves himself from them.”
And the apostle Paul exhorts the Colossians, and us, to grow in those daily virtues of “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.”
These virtues bring God’s healing and mercy into the heart of families. And as St. Paul notes, “Over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.”
In Jesus, the relationships of family life are transformed by the power of God’s love. For Jesus experienced the love of his heavenly father within the love of the Holy Family.
The Gospel story of the finding of the child Jesus in the Temple reminds us that Jesus was nurtured within a human family as he grew in wisdom, age and favor to carry out freely the saving plan of his heavenly father.
The love of Mary and Joseph in the family and home of Nazareth strengthened in Jesus the love with which he gave his life for the salvation of the world.
As this year draws to a close and we look ahead to a new year of God’s blessings we take to heart the words of St. Paul, “And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” May Jesus, Mary and Joseph be at the center of our families as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
What inspires you most about the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.