Holy Family: December 31, 2023

Luke 2: 22-40

Fr. John Tran

What a remarkable pair of people are the main characters in today's gospel: Simeon and Anna. What the learned and clever failed to recognize, they did! Before Jesus worked his first miracle, before he could even speak his first word, they recognized an infant as the “glory of your people Israel.” It is amazing what is possible when a life is lived close to the Lord, in the midst of his temple.

And what of the parents? In a matter of a little more than a week, they had experienced life changing events as the begin to bring to life a new baby and form a family. Not to mention the angelic appearance and dreams they had experienced, marvelous things had happened since the birth of Jesus. It began with the birth taking place in a stable of all places. Why had God allowed such a thing to happen to them and God's only Son? Had the done something wrong? And what of the shepherds, at the bottom of the social ladder, coming in the middle of the night to see a savior announce to them by yet more angels? Then come the Magi, wise foreigners, who come to bring gifts to the new King of the Jews...and they are not part of God's people?

But now, they are confronted in the Temple where God resides by two elderly people, who show the wisdom of lives lived close to God. In a way, the are more ordinary people to Mary and Joseph, more of the kind of folks that could be their neighbors. To hear such unexpected proclamations from them must have been reassuring, even if they caught those new parents by surprise. These statements must have been calming, and helped Mary and Joseph to realize that a more ordinary family than they may have imagined; they had not dreamed all this up. Their son would be theirs to raise in love and fear of God. Perhaps all new parents experience this with the first born.

We, too, are reassured. Though Jesus is Son of God, he himself has made us his brothers and sisters by making us children of his own Father. Jesus, the infant, is approachable to us, just Jesus, the man and the risen Jesus are. Our God has revealed himself in a way we can begin to understand. It takes us a life time to begin to know him, just as the lifetime it tool Simeon and Anna. The humanness of the Holy Family and the wisdom and persistence of the elders are our pattern and guide to Jesus, his Father, and his Spirit. Be consoled and live.

Today is a good time to remember our families and all those elders in our lives who have brought us to faith and helped us on our journey to God. It is easy to take them for granted and not often call them to mind, much less thank them and care for them.

In an audience Pope Paul VI told how one day, when he was Archbishop of Milan, he went out on parish visitation. During the course of the visitation he found an old woman living alone. ‘How are you?’ he asked her. ‘Not bad,’ she answered. ‘I have enough food, and I’m not suffering from the cold.’ ‘You must be reasonably happy then?’ he said. ‘No, I’m not’, she said as she started to cry. ‘You see, my son and daughter-in-law never come to see me. I’m dying of loneliness.’ Afterwards he was haunted by the phrase ‘I’m dying of loneliness’. And the Pope concluded: ‘Food and warmth are not enough in themselves. People need something more. They need our presence, our time, our love. They need to be touched, to be reassured that they are not forgotten.’

The Holy Family, as well as Simeon and Anna, show us the way to recognize 'God- with-us.' That God-who-became-one-of-us would want no one to die of loneliness. After all, as he was dying, Jesus took care to entrust his mother to the disciple he loved. We can be that God-with-us to those who need us. May we continue to grow in lives close to God, in the new Temple of his dwelling in each of us.