Feast of the Holy Family of
Jesus, Mary and Joseph
December 30, 2018 Cycle C
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.
Sunday Reading Meditations
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
front of the church is a mosaic of the Epiphany of the Lord, with the magi
adoring the baby Jesus on Mary’s lap and Saint Joseph standing beside them.
Saint John Paul II is also depicted in the mosaic, inviting us to contemplate
the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as an “icon and model” for every
family. At the Mass of the Canonization of Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis
recalled that his predecessor once said that wanted to be remembered as “the
Pope of the family.”
The patron saint of our shrine invites us to contemplate and imitate the shining example of the Holy Family. Thus, it is appropriate for us to call the Saint John Paul II National Shrine a shrine of the family.
Today’s Gospel tells us that Mary and Joseph once feared that the child Jesus was lost. “After three days they found him in the temple” (Lk 2:46): “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Lk 2:48). In their three days of anguish, we are reminded of the sign of Jonah and also of Christ’s coming passion: “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Mt 12:40). Mary was to lose her son and then find him in the Father’s house once again.
In Joseph and Mary’s anguish when Jesus was lost, we also see the anguish of parents whose children are lost, suffering or deceased.
When Mary and Joseph eventually find Jesus in the temple, he says something that they do not understand: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49). There are moments in life when it is difficult to understand God’s plans. The otherness of God goes beyond our understanding. As the prophet Isaiah says: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Is 55:8‒9). Perhaps the loss of the child Jesus helped prepare Mary for her great loss on Good Friday. Standing beside the cross, perhaps she thought: “I have lost you before but then I found you in the Father’s house.”
The Holy Family teaches us that losing and finding are always present in Christian life. In the Gospel according to John, Jesus says: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24).
Today’s first reading tells us that Hannah, the previously barren mother of the prophet Samuel, had vowed that if she ever had a son, she would give him to serve God. Hannah’s prayer was answered. After her son was weaned, she gratefully presented him at the temple and gave him back to God: “I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD” (1 Sam 1:27‒28).
Hannah clearly perceived her son as a gift from God. When she gave Samuel back to God, she was not forfeiting this precious gift because what we give him becomes more ours than ever.
In order to understand the importance of loss in order to find something even greater in family life, we should imitate Mary. The Gospel says: “His mother kept all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:51). Mary was always in prayerful search for the meaning of what was happening and her heart was always peaceful. In the second reading, Saint Paul says: “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts” (Col 3:15)
Saint John Paul II’s Letter to Families, Gratissimam sane, concludes with the following prayer: “May the Holy Family, icon and model of every human family, help each individual to walk in the spirit of Nazareth. May it help each family unit to grow in understanding of its particular mission in society and the Church by hearing the Word of God, by prayer and by a fraternal sharing of life. May Mary, Mother of ‘Fairest Love,’ and Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer, accompany us all with their constant protection. Amen.
Sunday Reading Meditations