Octave of Christmas-Holy Family
“Laudato Si Journey’ – Sunday Gospel”
Sunday, December 31
SUNDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF CHRISTMAS -THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH – CYCLE B
Lk 2, 22-40
Here we are again, after the journey to the stable in Bethlehem, back on the missionary path! In the midst of the Christmas season we are presented with Jesus’ first journey to Jerusalem. In fact, the whole Gospel of Luke is one big journey of Jesus towards Jerusalem and this is made very clear in the first chapters. In Bethlehem God manifests himself to the shepherds, many and undefined, while in Jerusalem we encounter two pious people, whose names we are familiar with. This is to tell us a little about the difficulties he will encounter as the story unfolds.
A man and a woman whose faces are marked by years of waiting and hope yet who become ambassadors for humanity with all its pain and joy. Two people who offer us the opportunity to learn more about this God who wants to be held in our arms. It would be a very nice way to start the new year.
“When the days were fulfilled”, the temporal reference is very beautiful. After birth, and after giving the name of Jesus, the days do not pass, they do not go by, it is not a finite time, but time fills with meaning. The days are fulfilled, like the ripening of the fruits in creation. These forty days after birth indicate the fullness of the promise through the prophet Malachi, in the very last words of the Old Testament.
It is Jesus’ first entry into the temple, fulfillment of the promise which said “And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek” (Mal 3, 1), a defenseless child will be the fulfillment of the work of God who “is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye..” One expects destruction and extermination, the wrath of God on men, and instead finds a child. This is the method that God uses with us when he returns to his temple.
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem” almost seems to remind us that in every temple, in every church, there is at least one good man, never a solitary one. A man and a woman who are the archetypes of those who know how to wait; of long waits. Nothing is said about Simeon, apart from the action of the Spirit on him, in waiting for the comforter, the Paraclete, and in the prophecy of seeing the Lord. The Spirit always pushes him out of the house to go to the temple. Nothing else is said about Simeon, other than the most beautiful gesture that a man can make with God entering the temple, unique in all of Sacred Scripture: ἐδέξατο αὐτὸ εἰς τὰς ⸀ἀγκάλας, that is, “he welcomed him into his arms”. What an immense honor, how worth waiting for it was!
Jesus’ whole life is a surrender into the arms of men. Even today we can await him and obey the command “take and eat, this is my body”, a body offered to be embraced by us. And the words of Simeon, which are recited every evening by those who love the company of prayer, are Νῦν ἀπολύεις, “nunc dimittis”, “now let (your servant) go”, the delivery to those who give themselves up. The servant, chained by waiting, can now be released.
Simeon indulges in a song of praise and a terrible prophecy addressed to Joseph and Mary. Song and prophecy. Everything centered on waiting and the word, on revelation and light. What is joy for some, is doom for others. And besides him there is Anna (“Grace of God”), daughter of Phanuel (“face of God”), of the tribe of Asher (“happiness, luck”), whose age -84 years- and a brief seven-year marriage is precisely mentioned. A long-widowed woman, without her husband. Now she can experience the happiness of contemplating the face of God, His grace, and so the many years as a widow are nothing compared to this privilege.
Every painting described in the Christmas Gospels should be contemplated for hours. It is a balm that gives us joy and hope and which concerns all of us: the young, the older generations, the hopes and sorrows of humanity. “When they had fulfilled everything”, a family that becomes a mission for everyone, brings everything to completion, brings time to maturity, makes it full of waiting. After all this, he returns home, to everyday life, to hiddenness, to the dignity of smallness. Jesus, in this silence, will grow for a very long time, well beyond the times of the age, and then reveal himself at the beginning of his mission.
The most beautiful wish, at the end of this year, is to experience the patience of waiting with the gaze of Saint Francis of Assisi, who said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Mt 5.9). A servant of God cannot know how much patience and humility he has within himself as long as he is content. When the time comes, however, when those who should make him content do the opposite, he has as much patience and humility as he has at that time and no more.” (Admonitions XIII).
In this word the way we are in the world is played out. In light of this word we can understand all the beauty of what happened in the manger of Bethlehem, and perhaps the new year, in our encounter at the end of this weeks’ journey of searching, will take on a sweeter flavor.
We wish you a heartfelt Happy New Year!