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Jaime L. WatersNovember 18, 2021
Photo from Unsplash.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. The multiple Lectionary reading options highlight different aspects of conception, parenting, marriage and family. The readings from 1 Samuel, Psalm 84, and 1 John are recommended.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers. (Lk 2:24)

Liturgical day
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (C)
Sir 3:2-14 or 1 Sm 1:20-28; Ps 128 or 84; Col 3:12-17 or 1 Jn 3:1-24; Lk 2:41-52

Whom do you consider family?

Do you recognize the power and importance of prayer?

How do you support others in their growth and development?

The first reading from 1 Samuel builds on last Sunday’s Gospel focused on Elizabeth and Mary. Like Elizabeth, Hannah had difficulty conceiving a child. Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, pray for a child, and Hannah agrees that if she conceives a son, she will offer him for service in the sanctuary. Hannah’s prayer is answered, as she conceived and bore Samuel, who will become a prophet. Hannah proclaims: “I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request.” The Hannah-Elkanah story is echoed in the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah. Similarly, recall that Mary’s Magnificat, which occurs in Luke after the Visitation, also echoes Hannah’s song.

The second reading from 1 John builds on the first reading by emphasizing the power of prayer and the interrelationship among all humans. This emphasis is more fitting for the feast of the Holy Family than the potentially damaging Col 3:12-17. In 1 John, we have an image of God as a loving father. Multiple times, we are reminded that we are all children of God. By extension, we are all united as a human family, created by a God who loves, listens and answers prayers. This reading shows the range of what it means to be family, pushing us to look beyond mere biological connection to see ourselves in relationship with all people.

The Gospel reading is another uniquely Lukan story. This narrative focuses on Jesus as a preteen traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Although he goes with his parents, he finds himself studying and learning from teachers in the Temple. He learns from them, and they are impressed with his understanding. While Mary and Joseph worry when they are unable to locate Jesus, the Holy Family eventually reunites. The end of the story says that Jesus was obedient to them and continued to increase in wisdom and divine and human favor.

Jesus’ interaction with his parents, his Father in heaven and his community show the range of familial connections that Jesus had in his life. Jesus learns and grows with his parents and with his teachers at the temple. While the Gospels record accounts of Jesus not being accepted by his family and hometown, Luke’s account today offers a tradition of Jesus thriving in his community at a young age.

The Gospel reading reminds us that we should cultivate relationships within and outside of our biological family and seek opportunities for growth through our relationships. We are reminded to interact with people beyond our household, as different experiences and perspectives can enrich our lives and increase our wisdom. The end of the reading notes that Jesus increased in wisdom and human and divine favor as he grew, and this growth is supported by his immediate family and larger community.

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