The Gospel narrative for the feast of the Holy Family places Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the Temple as they come to Jerusalem to present the child Jesus to the Lord, pursuant to the dictates of the Law of Moses.
This epic scene is replete with drama as the Holy Family encounters Simeon and the prophetess, Anna. Simeon’s cryptic prophecy amazes both Our Lady and St. Joseph. Any set of parents of a newborn baby would be taken aback if a stranger made such comments about their child. And yet, we know, as did Mary and Joseph, that Jesus was not an ordinary child. After all, the salvation of the world had come among them in the flesh.
On one level, we can appreciate the humble obedience of the Holy Family in adhering to the prescripts of the Law of Moses, even though Jesus had no real reason to be presented in the Temple insofar as it was the Lord Himself being presented to the Father.
And yet, it is precisely this fulfillment of the prescripts of the Law of Moses that ushers in the definitive era of salvation in Christ. In the drama of the presentation in the Temple, Jesus closes the era of the Mosaic Law and begins the fulfillment of that law in His very person. Already in the Temple, we are given a foreshadowing of the sufferings of the Blessed Mother at Calvary and how Jesus would redeem Israel and the world.
To be sure, the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple is a unique setting in which to encounter the Holy Family on this feast. Perhaps we might prefer to contemplate them at home in Nazareth or in Bethlehem in the days immediately after Christmas. However, the Church proposes this reading for our meditation in order to help us understand the cosmic significance of the infant Jesus and the place of the family in God’s designs for salvation.
In the Holy Family, we observe that God acts through the family in order to bring about the work of salvation. He willed that His only begotten Son be subject to human parents and receive His human formation within a family. In doing so, God shows us how Jesus truly identifies with the human experience, including family life.
Pope John Paul II once wrote that the future of civilization passes through the family. If that is true for the ordinary family, how much more true was it for the Holy Family? They are the model for family life: pure, unified, harmonious, obedient to the Father’s plan, and teeming with mutual love. In this family, loving God with their whole heart, mind and soul was the first priority.
It was out of love for God that they experienced the meaning of family love. They embodied every virtue that every family ought to emulate. In an age where the family is plagued by divorce, infidelity, abortion, abuses of various types and disunity, the Church places the Holy Family before us to remind us of how God desires for us to live within the confines of family life — to fulfill the Law of Love that His Son came to establish.
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