A Family of Faithfulness

On the Sixth Day within the Octave of Christmas, we are still – liturgically – celebrating Christmas Day! We sing the Gloria at each Mass during these eight days, and the prayers for the Nativity from the Liturgy of the Hours are repeated each morning as if it were still Christmas Day. In the Church, we celebrate the major feast days for weeks, not hours, so continue to spread the Christmas cheer, all the way to Epiphany!

In today’s Gospel, we glimpse the “hidden life” of the Holy Family in Nazareth. After the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, where the prayerful, faithful, 84-year-old temple-dwelling widow, Anna, recognized the Messiah in the arms of Mary and Joseph and gave thanks to God, the family returned to Nazareth. By all outward appearances, this was a family like every other family, and the child was a child like every other child, who “grew and became strong.” Like most children do. Right?

We are given a hint that there is a bit more than this at the end of the reading: the child was “filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” What did this look like within this particular family? There are things we can know and things we can only wonder about.

We know that they were faithful to the prescriptions of the Jewish law. We know that they prayed at the specified hours, that they prayed the Psalms, that they fasted, and observed the feasts prescribed by the law. We know that they had to work, to eat, to serve, and celebrate with their neighbors. And as faithful Jews, we know that they recited (several times a day) the Shema, acknowledging God as one, Whom they love with all their heart, soul, and mind. This is how they lived: in loving obedience to the one God of all, in constant obedience to the Father.

We don’t know many details about these years, but our hearts can lead us to ask some questions about them. What was it like to be the parents of the God-Man, to teach the law to the One Who gave it to His people? Did their neighbors discern anything special about this little family, in their demeanor or their generosity? Did their dinner conversations ever reach to the future, to the Mission of the Christ? We are free to wonder, and even to ask Jesus, His Mother, and St. Joseph to help us understand this mystery. And we certainly can – and should – ask them for the grace to live each moment with the same love and obedience to the Father.

May that be part of our New Year’s resolutions: to strive to walk with the Holy Family, and let them lead us to understand that we are loved intensely and infinitely by God. I pray that you and all those you love are being showered with many Christmas graces, and are blessed with a peace-filled New Year!

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Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.