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Feast of the Holy Family

Feast of the Holy Family

Although we usually are too polite to show it, let’s be honest—once in a while we receive a Christmas gift that is just the opposite of what we were expecting! Now, an unexpected Christmas gift may not be all that bad. Sometimes, years later, we may cherish such a gift more than those we’d have chosen for ourselves.

The infancy narratives in Luke’s Gospel offer us a similar “unexpected gift.” Between the lines of his accounts of the Holy Family, the infant in the manger or the shepherds visiting the manger, Luke is leading us to look ahead in the story, to the outcome of the Lord’s mission: his death and resurrection. Scripture scholars tell us that these stories point to wider themes of Luke’s Gospel, the revelation about Jesus’ identity and the challenge of being his disciples.

In today’s selection, the words of Simeon, who meets the Holy Family in the Temple, tell us that Jesus will encounter opposition and persecution, the opposite of the acclaim we might expect for the Messiah. He also reveals another reversal: Instead of being a tool to defeat Israel’s enemies, this child will be “a revealing light to the Gentiles.”

Mary and Joseph are models for us of patient expectation and openness to God. Today’s Gospel might suggest that we do the same. Are we open to God’s surprising love today?Are we flexible enough to expect change, even from those around us whom we know well? There may yet be some unexpected gifts in store.

I’m Father Greg Friedman, with the “Sunday Soundbite” for St. Anthony Messenger Press, on the Web at