Gospel Reflection 31 Dec - SVD INM - India Mumbai Province

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Gospel Reflection 31 Dec






Holy Family [Lk 2:22-40]

31 December 2017


Presentation of Jesus in the Temple


Readings: (1) Sir 3:2-6.12-14 (2) Col 3:12-21


1.  Theme in brief


Longing for God’s salvation in our families


2.  Focus Statement


Like the Holy Family of Nazareth, our Christian family is called to be devout; and like Simeon and Anna should have an intense desire to meet the Lord and experience his salvation.


3.   Explanation of the text


Today’s gospel text portrays the parents of Jesus as
faithful observers of the Law of Moses regarding purification of the mother after childbirth and presentation of the firstborn male child as holy to the Lord (2:22-23). When they bring the Child to the Temple of Jerusalem to offer (present) him to the Lord with a sacrificial offering of a pair of turtle doves (2:23), they are greeted by Simeon and Anna.  Both the persons are presented to us as righteous and devout Jews (2:25) who have a desire to meet the Lord and personally experience his salvation. They represent all those who look forward to the Messiah as their consolation(2:25) and long for redemption he is going to bring (2:25, 38). This longing in the heart of Simeon is so intense that the Holy Spirit himself reveals to him that he will not see death before he sees the Messiah (2:26). When he sees the Messiah with his own eyes, his hope and longing is fulfilled.
Simeon takes the Child Jesus in his arms and not only praises God for fulfilling his hope but also announces Jesus’ identity and mission. He identifies him as the universal Saviour, because through him now salvation has come not only to the Jews but to all peoples (2:31). The Divine Child in his arms is born not only to give glory to the chosen people of God (that is, Israel), but also as a Light of revelation to the Gentiles. Now guided by that Light (who is Jesus himself), the Gentiles can also recognize the revelation of God’s salvation. Since Simeon gets the wonderful privilege of seeing the Messiah with his own eyes, he is ready and willing to be dismissed from this world by his Master (2:29-30). In other words, he is now prepared to die in peace.     

Next, Simeon predicts about the Child’s future mission and its implications for his Mother Mary (2:34). He foretells that this Child is destined to be
opposed and rejected by his own people. Besides, a ‘sword’ of suffering and trials will pierce the heart of Mary because of this Child (2:35). Hence, Mary herself is destined to be a partner in the suffering and agony that her Child will have to undergo in future for the redemption of all. In other words, Simeon already announces Mary’s participation in the passion and cross of Christ before she is brought to the glory of his resurrection.
Finally, Luke’s gospel portrays the Holy Family of Nazareth as the place where Jesus grows in strength,wisdom and God’s favour (2:40). Luke wants to tell his readers that the Holy Family provides the context and atmosphere in which the Divine Child grows into maturity – physical, mental and spiritual.    

4.  Application to life


As we celebrate the feast of Holy Family, today’s gospel tells us that the Son of God, when he was born in a family, did not claim any
special privilege for himself. He, as well as his parents humbly submitted themselves to all the human and religious laws like any other ordinary people. This example of the Holy Family makes us regret for the times we claimed special treatment for ourselves or took pride in our privileged position in our family because of our better contribution or higher salary for the family’s income or all-round progress. We often forget how mutually dependant we are on one another in the family for various services from the moment of rising from bed to going to bed. As humans, knowingly ot unknowingly, we do hurt one another in our family now and then. Sometimes our lack of humility prevents us from admitting our faults and hurtful behaviour. It leads us to justify our wrongdoings and create further hurt feelings. We hardly realize how much of love is destroyed or lost due to this kind of behaviour. We should have an intense desire to be freed from this kind of pride and self-sufficiency. Before we "depart from this world in peace," do we have the dream (aim) to "see salvation" or liberation from this kind ofpride, as Simeon wished (2:29-30)?
The pair of turtle doves (instead of a lamb) brought by Joseph and Mary for sacrificial offering indicates their inability to offer a lamb due to their poverty. Besides, the old age of Simeon and Anna and the latter’swidowhood further reinforce the message of God taking the side of the poor and the helpless as he is born in the context of a family of Nazareth. This type of identification of God with the poor, challenges us to recognize poverty and hunger prevalent in our families in various parts of the world. Some are materially hungry for food ad poor for clothing and housing; some are hungry for love, care and concern. What about our attitudes towards the aged, elderly, sick, bedridden, widowed and disabled members of our family? We need to regret on this Family Feast day if we have neglected to take sufficient care of such members. Like Mary, a ‘sword’ of sorrow should pierce our hearts to see some aged and sick parents not taken care of by their own children. We should see to it that the sick and the aged in our family are not neglected so that when our time comes to depart from this world we can depart in peace as Simeon wished in today’s gospel text 2:29).

Like Joseph and Mary, and Simeon and Anna, our Christian family is called to be
righteous and devout. Like Simeon, in our family we too should have an intense desire to meet the Lord and experience his salvation, first of all in daily family prayer, reading or listening to and reflecting on the Word of God. By doing so, Jesus himself becomes the unseen guest in our family whose hidden presence we feel in our joys and sorrows, success and failure, disappointment and frustration, tension and suffering. Our family becomes Christian only when we lay its foundation on the solid Rock (that is, Christ himself) and givepriority to establishment of his Kingdom or his gospel-values, such as genuine love for one another, care, concern, sacrifice and forgiveness. As Simeon foretold about the rise and fall of many in Israel on account of Jesus (2:34), our family too will rise to a higher level of harmony if all of us seriously try to live by Jesus’ values, and will fall to a low level of disharmony and lovelessnes if we do not care for any of his values. It is right and fitting to examine whether our house is primarily a warehouse or storehouse of ornaments, utensils, machinery, gadgets, furniture, bank deposits and insurance policy’s documents, or a place of genuinely human and warm relationships. May be we work so hard for the former and neglect to work on equal footing for the latter. Like Simeon we should long to see salvation coming to our family. This happens when the gospel-values are firmly established in ur family and we work out for our daily salvation from selfishness, sin, pride, greed, resentment, jealousies and lust.
The spirituality of a Christian family consists in offering of itself to the Lord, as Jesus and Mary offered Child Jesus in the Temple. Since all of us in the family are baptized persons, we should not forget that all of us or the whole family is consecrated to the Lord and set apart to do his will by baptism itself. We are called to live a life of holiness in our own particular state of life. We are called to discover God’s will or hisplans in everyday events, in all the ups and downs.  Married partners are called to help each other, and parents to help their children to live a life of holiness and discover God’s will in every day’s life. Together with Jesus who was offered in the temple, Christian parents need to offer their children to the Lord so that he may use them according to his designs. Together with Jesus who offered himself totally to God on the cross, Christian families are called to offer their joys and sorrows, struggles and trials, problems and hardships as sacrifice, "holy and acceptable to God" (Rom 12:1).

If living this daily consecration is applicable to all Christian families, how much more should it be for religious communities of persons belonging to
consecrated life! Pope Francis, in his special letter to the Religious in the Year of Consecrated Life (2014 - 2016) writes that joy in religious communities is strengthened by the experience of fraternity, where everyone shares the responsibility for the others'fidelity to the Gospel and their growth. He says that a joyless fraternity and a lack of tenderness are the signs of a dying fraternity. Pope Francis further says that living a life of fragmentation and a sterile individualism in religious communities leads to the weakening of relationships and undermines care for one another. This sterile individualism and superficial relationships has affected not only natural families but also religious communities. The result is the unexpressed attitude: "You-do-your-work, I-do-my-work" and "let us co-exist peacefully". We feel disheartened to see traditional family values which we cherished so much such as mutual sharing, adjustment and collaboration, sacrifice of one’s own comforts, personal care and joyful togetherness are gradually eroding both in natural families and religious communities.

Today, as Simeon prophesized to Mary, we see a
sword of suffering, anxiety, fear, humiliation and disgrace piercing the hearts of many parents when their children go astray and become victims of crime, terrorism, addictions (such as drugs/alcoholism) and delinquent behaviour. The same thing happens when some of them stop practising their faith or turn out to be agnostics or atheists. In many traditional families of some regions of the world where love-marriages and inter-faith or inter-caste marriages are tabooed, parents and elders feel (rightly or wrongly) that their hearts are pierced by their children when they break this social taboo. They not only face social disapproval but also a loss of their family’s honour or reputation. Even when their children do very good service to society or become social/religious reformers, like Jesus, they become victims of misunderstanding and opposition. Mary’s pierced heart symbolizes all the agony, which the parents have to undergo in these moments. Mary teaches them how to accept God’s will and surrenderthe whole situation to God, when it does not change in spite of hard efforts. Whenever there is a clash of tradition and modernity, both parents and young children need humility to enter into a continual dialogue.
Like the family of Nazareth, our family is the natural garden where human and spiritual values are sown and nurtured in children’s hearts. A question which Christian parents have to ask on this feast day is whether they are busy only in working hard to feed and educate their children, or equally concerned aboutinculcating values, wisdom and character into them; and whether their families are modelled on the Holy Family of Nazareth where Jesus grew in strength, wisdom and God’s favour. Besides feeding, clothing and educating children, parents are called to be equally concerned about inculcating the vales of sharing (instead of self-centredness), sacrifice, service and togetherness. If parents consider Holy Family’s model as their family’s mission they can depart in peace from this world when their time comes to hand over their spirit to the Lord.

5.  Response to God's Word


Do we have an intense desire to see salvation from all kinds of pride and self-sufficiency in our family? Do we recognize a hunger for love and care in our family? What are our attitudes towards the aged, elderly, sick, bedridden, widowed and disabled members of our family? Are they properly taken care of, or neglected? Do we give priority to establishment of Christ’s gospel-values, such as genuine love for one another, care, concern, sacrifice and forgiveness in our family? Have sterile individualism and superficial relationships crept into our family? Do we try to discover God’s will, or his plans for our family, and help one another to live according to it? What are the special ritual and customs we have introduced in our families or would like do at home in order to promote togetherness, mutual collaboration, sharing and protection from evil?


6.  A prayer


Jesus, by your birth in the Holy Family of Nazareth, you have sanctified the families of those who put their faith and trust in you. Grant that we may experience salvation from all types of selfishness and individualism that kill the family spirit among us. Give us the patience and strength to care for the sick and the aged in our family. As you grew in strength, wisdom and God’s favour in the Holy Family, give us wisdom to bring up our children in this model. Once again, we renew our baptismal consecration to God through you and resolve to give priority to your gospel-values in our family. Be with us in our joys and sorrows, struggles and trials, problems and hardships, so that our offering may be holy and acceptable to you. Amen.


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