Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph (Cycle C)

Our readings for this Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are here. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122621.cfm).  The readings are again ABC, so I have used the notes from 2017 (Cycle A).

These are my notes and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homily from the 10AM Mass on December 31, 2017.  And a couple chip-ins on the nature of what a Holy Family is!


The poems Fr Dennis references in 2017 are:

Advent by Mary Jo Salter (2017 homily)

Course of Treatment by Linda Pastan (2017 homily)

Vocational Training by Carrie Shipers (2017 homily)

and Fr Tom McClain, SJ in 2014 offered a homily that has stuck with me,

and Fr Peter Fennessy, SJ contributed a visual image.

In 2017 with Fr Dennis, we reflected on —

  • Simeon and Anna are the symbolic grandparents in the story of the Nativity.  In the apocrypha, stories are told of Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim, and over time we celebrate them on July 26th.  But Simeon and Anna represent Jesus’ grandparents in this early story in Jesus’ life.  Both the symbolic and the actual grandparents are our reminders that Emanuel, God-with-us, came to “pitch tent” with us, and his humanity fully encompasses ours, and so eventually through the resurrection, our humanity with his fully shared humanity into the divinity of God.  Humans have grandparents, so did our savior.
  • The readings encompass the themes of looking back, reflectively, as Simeon recalls the prophecy from earlier in his life; of beginning tendings or leanings, as both Simeon and Anna offer about Jesus; and of families, as all of the readings offer — with concessions to the culture and language of their times.
  • In Mary Jo Salter’s poem of Advent, the poem captures the sense that Advent = Coming and how a mother and daughter inhabit Advent, the coming, and the becoming of their space and relationship together.  The poem shares the holiness of the interweaving and recognition of our lives with each other and with the physical world.
  • Linda Pastan’s Course of Treatment has 40 visits of (probably) a spouse, but an unnamed relation, being released from treatment for a new year, with hope.
  • In Carrie Shipers’ Vocational Training she presents the wisdom internalized and practiced by her mother, a doctor.  You get the sense of the Anna type wisdom and the details of advice, the practice we need so we “know what to do” in the moments of need.  
  • So we pray for our families — biological (through birth), adopted (our functional families), social (varied), and global (all of humanity) — that we may create more loving and giving, inwardly and outwardly, families.

In 2014, Tom McClain offered that Holy Families are our communities that offer

  • the gift of intimacy;
  • safety in our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual beings; and
  • apostolic mission/service for others, as in I love you but I’ll let you go to do what you must for Christ.  In other words, the absence of an authentic sense of service for others eventually leads to interior rot.
Simone Martini - Christ Discovered in the Temple - Google Art Project

Holy Family Imagined

On one of my retreats at Manresa Jesuit Retreat House, Fr Peter Fennessy, SJ shared this image of “Christ Discovered in the Temple” by Simone Martini (1342)  The image is from a final scene in scripture before “the hidden years” of Jesus.  Jesus has, in essence, ditched his parents and family caravan to return to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the Holy Family is having a conversation.  The expressions on Mary’s, Joseph’s, and Jesus’ faces are those of human families past, present, and future.  Exasperation, anguish, frustration … all these are part of Holy Families, as are patience, tenderness, and love. 

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