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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Holy Family

The Holy Family
December 30, 2018
1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28; Psalm 84; 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Luke 2:41-52

The first reading tells us that Hannah and Elkanah were obedient to the protocols of the faith by bringing Samuel to the Temple and making the customary sacrifices. Mary and Joseph did the same when they presented Jesus with their required Temple offerings. A comparison of Mary’s story with Hannah’s shows striking similarities. Each story shows they were obedient to the faith, and that is the point of these readings. We become fascinated with the story of the young Jesus teaching in the Temple. He is precocious and he knows he has a future destiny, but the key insight from the Gospel is that he returned with them to Nazareth and learned obedience from Mary and Joseph.

Today we honor the Holy Family because they taught Jesus the obedience of faith that was needed to be obedient to God as he approached the cross. The daily, mundane lessons of practical life that his parents taught him made him capable of understanding the rigors required by his faith. Learning good manners, studying diligently, respecting the law and one’s elders, practicing patience and charity, and honoring the rituals, customs, and traditions of the community gave Jesus the discipline to handle God’s expectations for him well. His practice of prayer had to continually develop as he came to a greater understanding of who he was and of his relationship to his Father.

Our family homes are the most important teachers of the faith. The homes have to be a place where we teach each other how to pray, how to study scripture and our traditions, and how to understand the history of church teachings. The emphasis is on the discipline rather than the content. We teach our young and each other how to think and how to express our feelings. We teach the virtues by living them out: apologizing for those times we have not respected a family member well, being open to informing our consciences more fully, and speaking words the nourish the positive development of a crucial relationship. These tasks are not easy, and it often means unlearning the ways we have been formed so we can develop kingdom-centered virtues.

This obedience is not the “pray, pay, and obey” method of the church of yesterday. We do not follow a law simply because it is a law because an unjust law is not a law at all. The far majority of laws are designed to give us freedom and to care for the greater common good. We must balance respect for the law with the practice of informing our consciences and wrangling with the moral implications of our judgments. The key for a Christian is to discover how to be faithful to Christ, who was obedient to God and broke with some of the Jewish traditions and conventions. Our families, our communities of faith, have to teach us to engage in a vital relationship with Jesus so that his voice can guide us forward. Scripture, tradition, church teachings are helpful signposts, but above everything else, the wisdom and guidance of Jesus is the most important factor in making choices.

Within a complex rapidly changing society that presents us with new moral dilemmas almost daily, and with a church that is currently crippled in providing credible guidance, we have to return to basics. We have to hear the voice of Jesus as the voice of discernment, and we need to rely upon each other to help us get there by praying in common, by sharing our stories, and by mindful listening in order to understand one another. Perhaps we have to learn how to pray creatively and according to our unique styles that meets where we are as maturing individuals. We become a community of prayer as we learn from each other’s experiences and we teach each other how to be obedient to Christ and his Spirit.

We have each other in Christ. This is a great strength. It will help us navigate risky and complex moral problems, and it will give us the courage to persevere in the face of adversity and confusion. In the church, a new way forward is needed. We are relying upon you to imitate the obedience of Jesus to help to get us to new places we cannot yet imagine. You have enormous power and abilities to bring us forward and I am confident that together we will honor Christ. This is the Holy Family he is honoring today. He is honoring you, his brothers and sisters, and he is glad to be part of this family.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading: 
Monday: (1 John 2) It is the last hour and the anti-Christ is coming. You have the anointing of the Holy One, and you have all knowledge.

Tuesday: (1 John 2) The liar is the one who denies Jesus is the Christ. Anyone who denies the Son also denies the Father. Let what you heard from the beginning remain with you.

Wednesday: (1 John 2) See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. The world doesn’t know us because they don’t know him.

         Thursday: (1 John 3) The person who acts in righteousness is righteous. Whoever sins belongs to the Devil. Stay in the Light as the children of God.  

Friday: (1 John 3) The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.      

Saturday (1 John 5) Who is the victor of this world? The one who believes in Jesus, who came through water and Blood, and the Spirit testifies to him.   

Monday: (John 1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came to be through him. A light shines in the darkness.

Tuesday: (John 1) This is the testimony of John: I am the voice of one crying out in the desert: Make straight the way of the Lord.    

Wednesday: (John 1) John the Baptist saw Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” The Spirit will come upon him and remain with him.

Thursday (John 1) The disciples of John were asked by Jesus, “What are you looking for?” They asked, “Where are you staying?” Come and see.

Friday (John 1) In Galilee, Jesus called Philip, who found Nathaniel and brought him to Jesus. “He is a true Israelite in whom there is no guile.”

Saturday (Mark 1) John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. The heavens were torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descended upon him.

Saints of the Week

December 30: The Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, was a feast instituted in 1921. It was originally the 3rd Sunday after Christmas. The Holy Family is often seen in Renaissance paintings - and many of those are of the flight into Egypt.

December 31: Sylvester I, pope (d. 335), served the church shortly after Constantine issued his Edict of Milan in 313 that publicly recognized Christianity as the official religion of the empire and provided it freedom of worship. Large public churches were built by the emperor and other benefactors. Sylvester was alive during the Council of Nicaea but did not attend because of old age.

January 2: Basil the Great and Gregory Nanzianzen, bishops and doctors (fourth century), are two of the four great doctors of the Eastern Church. They are known for their preaching especially against the Arian heretics. Basil began as a hermit before he was named archbishop of Caesarea. He influenced Gregory who eventually became archbishop of Constantinople. Their teachings influenced both the Roman and Eastern Churches.

January 3: The Name of Jesus was given to the infant as the angel foretold. In the Mediterranean world, the naming of person stood for the whole person. Humans were given the power to name during the Genesis creation accounts. If one honors the name of the person, they honor the person. The name Jesus means “Yahweh saves.”

January 4: Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious (1774-1821), was born into an Episcopalian household where she married and had five children. When her husband died, she became a Catholic and founded a girls’ school in Baltimore. She then founded the Sisters of Charity and began the foundation for the parochial school system in the U.S. She is the first native-born American to be canonized.

January 5: John Neumann, bishop (1811-1860), emigrated from Bohemia to New York and joined the Redemptorists in Pittsburgh before being named bishop of Philadelphia. He built many churches in the diocese and placed great emphasis on education as the foundation of faith.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Dec 30, 1564. Letter from Pope Pius IV to Daniel, Archbishop of Mayence, deploring the malicious and scurrilous pamphlets published against the Society throughout Germany and desiring him to use his influence against the evil.
·      Dec 31, 1640. John Francis Regis died. He was a missionary to the towns and villages of the remote mountains of southern France.
·      Jan. 1, 1598: Fr. Alphonsus Barréna, surnamed the Apostle of Peru, died. He was the first to carry the faith to the Guaranis and Chiquitos in Paraguay.
·      Jan. 2, 1619: At Rome, John Berchmans and Bartholomew Penneman, his companion scholastic from Belgium, entered the Roman College.
·      Jan. 3, 1816: Fr. General Brzozowski and 25 members of the Society, guarded by soldiers, left St. Petersburg, Russia, having been banished by the civil government.
·      Jan. 4, 1619: The English mission is raised to the status of a province.
·      Jan. 5, 1548: Francis Suarez, one of the greatest theologians of the church, was born at Granada.

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