Write Your Ticket to the Wholly Family Reunion

This Sunday is dedicated to the Holy Family. This feast sets a high bar for us to become what we are all called to be: wholly family. Each of our readings reminds us that being a family member is God’s highest calling for us. It holds the formula for peace on earth. Ultimately, world peace starts in our families. It’s no secret, yet if you look at the state of our world you would think that formula were buried deep beneath the surface of some uncharted island. The first reading from the book of Sirach (SIR 3:2-6, 12-14) plants the formula deep in our hearts:

“God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother.”

This formula for family is so much a part of humanity that those without family connections ache from that emptiness. The alternate first reading for this Sunday (GN 15:1-6; 21:1-3) takes us to the front of the Bible, where we read of Abram’s prayer to God, spoken from the depths of longing for family:

“O Lord GOD, what good will your gifts be, if I keep on being childless and have as my heir the steward of my house, Eliezer? See, you have given me no offspring.”

That prayer to his heavenly father blessed Abram and his wife Sarah with a family tree that took root immediately and still lives today. All families can take nourishment from its branches, yet there are many who starve themselves by isolating themselves in a prison of selfishness. They know the location of the keys to their freedom but too often the deadly sin of pride blinds them to the cause and cure of that same hunger Abram felt. For those who didn’t see the light in our first reading, the second reading from St. Paul virtually places the keys to spiritual freedom and fulfillment in our hands via his letter to the Colossians (COL 3:12-21):

“Brothers and sisters, put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love.”

With these words Paul was relaying the prime directive of our master, Jesus the Christ. It was Jesus’ birth that ensured the everlasting life of the family tree Abram’s prayer planted. There were those born between that planting and that birth who anticipated the promise of salvation to be delivered by the Holy Family we celebrate today. Today’s gospel reading from Luke (LK 2:22-40) makes us witnesses to the freeing of one such soul—Simeon—whom the Holy Spirit blessed with knowledge of that deliverance:

“…and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,[Simeon] took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: ‘Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.’”

Our revelation is that peace can only be found through dedication to a reunion of the human family. Membership in that family defines who we are as God’s children—not worldly occupations and job descriptions, but titles like father, mother, son, daughter, sister and brother. Those are the words that will lead our obituaries when we exit this world, and they will also be printed on our entry ticket to that reunion in God’s Kingdom.

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