Feast of the Holy Family – 27 December 2020
Lectionary Readings: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128:1-5 (R. cf.1); Colossians 3:12-21; Luke 2:22-40
Theme: The faith of families
The celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family on the last Sunday of this calendar year brings a fitting conclusion to a year in which the Covid-19 global pandemic confined many people to their immediate household. The year 2020 will be remembered as one in which families were tested in ways that they could not have imagined as they grappled with anxiety over the risk of illness, economic hardship, child care, remote learning for school-age children, and the distress of separation from relatives and other loved ones. In addition to these, families had to navigate the inevitable tensions that arose from extended periods together which then hopefully led to rediscovering each other’s beauty and God-given uniqueness.
This Sunday’s readings center around the theme of faith and the family. In the gospel, Mary and Joseph bring the child Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord in obedience to the teachings of their religious tradition. In a very moving scene, they meet Simeon and Anna, elders in the faith, who exemplify the devotion and keen discernment that flow from the Holy Spirit. Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus are blessed by this meeting and by Simeon and Anna’s generous and wise words. It is Mary and Joseph’s commitment to living out their faith as fully as possible that brings them to this bitter-sweet moment of grace. While Simeon’s words foreshadow the inevitable future pain, he praises God mightily because salvation has come into the world. The Holy Family of Nazareth is strengthened in their faith by the counsel of their elders and the witness of their spiritual ancestors. The Holy Family does not stand alone but is part of a wider and nurturing community.
Today’s celebration gives recognition to the unobtrusive home life of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. While scripture offers few detailed descriptions, the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke do provide glimpses of a family that had its share of heartache, struggle, and joy. Therefore, this feast does not focus on idealizing their life, but rather on celebrating the faithfulness to God that was at the center of their family practices, decisions, and relationships.
Originally a popular devotion that began in the 17th century, the feast of the Holy Family was extended to the universal church in 1921 and then placed on the first Sunday after Christmas in 1969. This liturgical celebration is meant to encourage family members to cultivate within their homes the living faith that leads everyone to greater compassion, kindness, humility, patience, forgiveness, and openness to the word of Christ (Col 3:12-13,16).
The past several months of the global pandemic have provided us with an opportunity to re-evaluate what is most important in life. As we consider our priorities for the New Year, may the revitalization of family life be at the top of the list, and may today’s feast of the Holy Family inspire us all to live in deeper faith, hope, and love.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Reflect on the experiences you have had with your family or religious community during this year of pandemic. As you consider your priorities for the New Year, what would you like to do differently regarding family or community life? 2. What particular religious practices would you like to foster?
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Sr. Carla Thomas, OP., Trinidad and Tobago/Toronto, Bat Kol Alumna 2018