Luis A. Vera, O.S.A.
Church of Saint Nicholas of Tolentine
Bronx, New York
Sir 3: 2-6, 12-14
or Gn 15: 1-6; 21: 1-3
Ps 128: 1-2, 3, 4-5
or Ps 105: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Col 3: 12-21 or Col 3: 12-17
or Heb 11: 8, 11-12, 17-19
Lk 2: 22-40
When was the last time someone promised you something that was never fulfilled? … Or how many times have you made promises that you never kept? It seems to me that the readings during these days speak to us about promises… but promises that have been fulfilled! Promises that are fulfilled by a faithful God, a God who is Emmanuel: God-is-with-us! As we gather to celebrate this Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we are invited to thanksgiving but we are also invited to healing and compassion; we are invited to look at the past with gentleness, to look into the future with hope and to see the many blessings that life is offering us, even in the midst of personal difficulties. We are invited to look at the poor family of Nazareth and see the poor families of our day. On this Feast we are called to look at the anawim, the poor and the oppressed among us, the refugees and the lonely, for they must be family to us too!
In the first reading from Genesis God tells Abram “fear not Abram, I am your shield”… and Abram put his faith in the Lord. Sarah and Abraham had a child. A promise was made and fulfilled...and the fulfillment of this promise changed the history of salvation.
In our Gospel today, another couple receives a promise and that promised is also fulfilled. Mary and Joseph bring their child to the Temple for they were obedient and followed the law of Moses: “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord.” They didn’t have the resources to offer a lamb, so they offered “the sacrifice of a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.”
The promise made to the righteous and devout Simeon and the prophetess Anna were also fulfilled! Simeon will not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord… He received more than what was promised! Not only did he see the consolation of Israel, not only did he see the Christ, but he took him into his arms and blessed God!! Now he can die in peace, for his eyes saw God’s salvation! A promise was made to Mary: a sword shall pierce her heart… and the promised was later fulfilled.
Simeon and Anna received promises that were fulfilled. They were filled with the spirit and were able to see things others couldn’t! The saw salvation, peace, redemption, Christ the Savior! Others didn’t recognize it; others only saw a couple with a child fulfilling a requirement of the law. Mary and Joseph were probably filled with questions… but with God in their hearts and the hope of a promise. They went back home and “the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” Promises fulfilled!
In our own families promises are made. Sometimes they are fulfilled, sometimes they are not. Our families might not be perfect… probably we have been hurt as we grew up, but we are still called to hope. In the second reading, St. Paul invites the Colossians and invites us to put on “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.” These are qualities we all need as followers of Christ, as people who live in a world that has become “smaller” each day.
On this last day of the year and on this great feast of the Holy Family, we hear the call to “put on love… and let the peace of Christ control [our] hearts, the peace into which [we] were also called in one body. And be thankful.” May we always learn from the God who is our shield and who is always faithful to the promises God has made.