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Contents: Volume 2 - Holy Family – B –
December 31, 2017


 

The

Holy

Family

2017

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Barbara Cooper, OP

3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

5. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

6.. (Your reflection can be here!)

 

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The Feast of the Holy Family 2017

The Feast of the Holy Family gives us a glimpse of positive relationships in a family or community. My experiences in family life, looking in retrospect, seem rather smooth and uneventful as a child but rather challenging as the married parent of two children. My two children are now grown. One lives with my husband and me along with her daughter and the other a few miles away. Challenging is an adjective that aptly describes our family life these days. Uneventful is rarely in our vocabulary. My family life today matches very little of my childhood!

How you grow up sets "normal" it seems for the rest of your life unless you see something radically different one day. I remember seeing a luxury birthday gift given to a classmate in high school in my senior year and realized my family was pretty darn poor. I remember listening to a first grader tell me, her teacher, that she wasn't at school because she had no shoes to wear the week before and recalled how education broke the cycle of poverty for me. I remember a formerly struggling student teacher who invited me to her wedding because she considered me, her university supervisor, as extended family and I realized what true gratefulness was. I remember being left out of a dinner invitation simply because I was the only female at a usually all-male gathering and yet at another event when as the only female, I was given a place of honor. Snippets of these remembrances and others and how I reacted to them and learned from them are part of who I am.

Relationships, feelings, words and actions form who we all are. In comparison to the Holy Family, well, most of us don't act very "holy"! I imagine Jesus, Mary, and Joseph worked out LOTS of things, just as we all do in our relationships, from the time of the Presentation at the Temple to Jesus being "lost" at the Temple 12 years later to the swords that pierced Mary's heart. The words "The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him" are words about each of us as we grew and each of those around us, even now. We, too, bear swords of the heart and deal with the unexpected.

How can we, in family life today and as part of a community, model the Holy Family, only One of whom was perfect? Genuine care and respect for one's parents is a given or should be according to the first reading. The second reading from Colossians gives us a good list of virtues to practice. We are also told about the rightful place of love, forgiveness, peace, and thankfulness. These should be firmly rooted in our hearts and homes and communities.

Families today are a blend of biological relatives, extended family, and people either bonded together in love or connected in some way. Some seem privileged, some are homeless and there is everything in-between. What we all share and need is a desire to be loved and to love. What we all share and need is a chance to learn how to do that in a "holy" way, one interaction at a time.

On this Feast of the Holy Family, let us remember that we are all part of God's Family, already beloved but still striving to grow in God's ways. Let us pray for the wisdom to treat everyone as a beloved child of God . Help us, Lord, find the right way to ask those who are harsher than they should be to us or others to remember our common bond and heritage. Let us remember Whose we all are.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph - B – December 31, 2017

What makes this family of Nazareth, "holy"? I believe the answer to that is in the second reading from Colossians which describes the qualities of people gathered together in Jesus' name. Whether it is the extended family of parish or convent, or our concept of an "ideal" mom, dad,1 son and 1 daughter plus puppy and white picket fence, or one or two adults with zero or twelve children, or any of the variety of people in today's society sharing life together in committed love.

"You are God’s chosen people. You are holy and dearly loved. So put on tender mercy and kindness as if they were your clothes. Don’t be proud. Be gentle and patient. Put up with one another. Forgive one another if you are holding something against someone. Forgive, just as the Lord forgave you. And over all these good things put on love. Love holds them all together perfectly as if they were one.

Let the peace that Christ gives rule in your hearts. As parts of one body, you were appointed to live in peace. And be thankful. Let the message about Christ live among you like a rich treasure. Teach and correct one another wisely. Teach one another by singing psalms and hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing to God with thanks in your hearts. Do everything you say or do in the name of the Lord Jesus. Always give thanks to God the Father through Christ."

These instructions are for the whole church, for all those "in Christ". They provide the reasoning for what goes before and after, relationships in society and family.

In society:

"You have started living a new life. Your knowledge of how that life should have the Creator’s likeness is being made new. Here there is no Gentile or Jew. There is no difference between those who are circumcised and those who are not. There is no rude outsider, or even a Scythian. There is no slave or free person. But Christ is everything. And he is in everything." (v.10ff)

In families:

" Wives, follow the lead of your husbands. That’s what the Lord wants you to do.

Husbands, love your wives. Don’t be mean to them.

Children, obey your parents in everything. That pleases the Lord.

Fathers, don’t make your children bitter. If you do, they will lose hope.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything...Obey them with an honest heart. Do it out of respect for the Lord. Work at everything you do with all your heart. Work as if you were working for the Lord, not for human masters. Work because you know that you will finally receive as a reward what the Lord wants you to have. You are slaves of the Lord Christ."

In North America and other Countries, slavery is no longer acceptable to the majority, and women have fought and died for the right to be recognized as "Persons" in our own right. Notice how, from verse 18ff, the admonitions are with a regard to those most vulnerable in that society – wives, children, slaves. In our society we might also ask ourselves how we treat the supermarket cashier, the employee who cleans our house, the refugee who has no home.

There is no area of our life that does not belong to Christ. There is no place in our life where God does not dwell. We are the One Family of God.

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph December 31, 2017

Sirach 3:2-6 or Genesis 15:1-6 &21:1-3; Responsorial Psalm 128 or 105; Colossians 3:12-21 or Hebrews 11:8, 11 &12, & 17-19; Gospel Acclamation Colossians 3:15-16 or Hebrews 1:1-2; Luke 2:22-40

Today, we celebrate the feast day of the family. We have only slight indications of the family life of the Holy Family, yet we celebrate this commemoration of the Holy Family in Nazareth with only few references. The idealized and unreal depictions of the Holy Family in pious art produced through centuries of Christianity portray the divinity of the baby, child, adolescent Jesus and a mere shadow of his humanity. If Jesus were not truly Divine and truly Human, the joy of Christmas last week would only be a sham. But Jesus, like us, is truly human. He had to learn, he had to study and listen to teachers at the synagogue, and he had chores to perform for the household. Later in the gospels he is identified by his working as a carpenter. If we think of Him as having only a divine nature, we could not claim him as our brother. We would find him lacking in sympathy for our troubles and pains, for our delights and happy times. He would not have experienced our experiences. He would be like so many of the made up gods. But this Jesus is truly man and truly God. The conflict within his person between his Godly nature and his Human nature would require reconciliation. In following the rituals and customs and religious traditions of his people he would discover his divinity. When he experienced human life sufficiently he came to John, his cousin, the baptizer. According to the gospel of Mark, it was there a voice was heard speaking to Jesus. "You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased."

HIs experience was so momentous that Jesus went out into the desert for a retreat of forty days. At the end of his retreat, he was tempted. He realized he was the Messiah, the one promised. Those temptations were about how he would accomplish his mission. Was he to gather the people by taking care of their needs and so removing from those people their responsibilities to care for themselves and their families? Was he to be the powerful conqueror overwhelming and controlling with military and economic might the entire world? Or was he to be a razzle-dazzle magician, a wizard, a showman and attract his followers with entertainment and befuddlement? As we recall, Jesus accepted none of those. He continued in the line of Moses the instructor in how to live a good life. He followed in the line of good kings of Israel who served the people with justice and respecting the dignity of the least in the kingdom, shepherding the nation toward the God who saved them. He followed in the line of the prophets who taught, corrected, and preached of the hope and the love of God for his people. It was the prophets who discovered God’s fingers at work in the history of his chosen people.

The gospel of this wonderful feast insists Jesus is of the Jewish tradition. He is taken to the temple according to the customs, traditions, and laws derived from Moses. He follows in the line of David and the prophets and is the summation of all that has been experienced by God’s people. Matthew in his gospel states that the time was ready for the coming of the Messiah. There was an air of expectation among the Jews. Each military occupation by pagans had before been overthrown by God’s intervention till now. Devout Jews believed, felt in the bones of their religious tradition that God would once again intervene and remove the horrible occupation by the Roman Empire. And the time for it was now. It was the Prophet Isaiah whose poems and preaching prepared the people for a coming Messiah. The Jews in the Babylonian exile were freed by Cyrus the Great of Persia whom Isaiah claims to have been the "anointed one of God." In the time of Jesus’s birth, the Romans occupied the nation with a harsh and cruel fist of iron. Because of their historical experience of God’s intervention, the people expected a new "anointed one of God."

Simeon was one of those who knew Israel’s history and read the signs of the times and believed he would see the Messiah before he died. Seeing this infant, Simeon recognized God’s presence and insisted this child is God’s promised visitation. His song, his poem is the Nunc Dimittis - now you can dismiss me, Lord – that is the final evening prayer in the Divine Office. Simeon knows only too well from the history of the chosen people that those who shepherd the nation suffer a great deal. He knew that Mary would also suffer as THE disciple of her son.

There was in the temple a widow, Anna. She spent her waning years praying and fasting in hope of seeing the Messiah. She was moved by this infant brought by Mary and Joseph to the ritual of purification and dedication to Yahweh. She couldn’t stop speaking of this boy-baby and how he was God’s anointed one.

Our first reading from Genesis speaks of the childless, aging Abram and his wife Sara. It reminds us that the hope of families is contained in the birth of a child. God’s promise to Abram was that he was to be the father of a great people, more numerous than the stars and Isaac was that hope.

However, we should not forget in our joy of family that there are families in which the birth of a child is a burden, another mouth to feed. If we are insensitive to the needs for opportunity for such a family we ignore how God works among us. There is much work to be done socially, economically, and religiously to support these families. We are God’s fingers and hands in this regard. Who can forget images of the little boy drown while escaping war, of boy soldiers carrying AK 47’s, trained to kill and murder, of emaciated faces of children without food or fresh water? Who can forget faces of homeless children scratching through dumpsters for nourishment? They are our family as well. We must build a staircase to lift them up and then lend a shoulder, a hand to guide them as members of our family. Every child is a child of hope for the human race. What a waste if we disregard and despise them! Corruption, greed, avarice, and tyrannical power only serve to deny these children the dignity and worth that are theirs by God’s creative hand.

But even these children of misfortune, victims of war, victims of corruption, victims of cruelty, and victims of the forgetfulness of leadership are denied space in our consciousness. In a wealthy nation of abundant possibilities, the family is often victim of a secularism that insists we are only units of production and units of consumption. The more rugged we are, the more we rise to power, to wealth, and to notoriety. The family of our birth is often a drain on our energies to acquire more. In our highly technical society, the latest toy takes the place of conversation. It’s tragic to sit in a restaurant and observe a family of four staring intently at their screens, tapping out messages to persons far away, all the while ignoring mom or dad or brother or sister or son or daughter sitting at table with them. Meal-tables are to be no-technology zones; parties a place where technology is forbidden to interrupt sharing.

The images of the Holy Family are often so idealistic that most of us cannot relate. Our family situations are more contentious, more competitive, and lacking in gentleness. As we grow up, there are often sibling wars that develop over meaningless slights. Parental love is judged given more to one than to another: advantages of education or opportunity create envy or jealousy: talent and skills become sources of envy. Family gatherings become a difficult chore and eventually communication is lost and love among family members dries up, blown away by winds of activity, busyness and daily living.

In dysfunctional families, there is a need for reconciliation. Interesting word that – reconciliation. The Holy Family came into being so Man and God might be reconciled. The story of the prodigal son is one of reconciliation and is the model we should think of when we consider reconciliation with God. But we cannot, must not, will not realize the salvation offered by this Jesus-child brought to the temple if we fail to embrace reconciliation of our individual selves with God and with man. This child comes to show us and give us the energy to reconcile individuals with every other individual. The model of reconciliation is the Cross. We recall that as he hung there, dying, enduring horrible pain, Jesus spoke strange words. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing." That is reconciliation. When the victim turns to the offender and says, "I forgive you" – that is how reconciliation begins. That is God’s message. Forgive those who harm you. Love your enemies as much as you love yourselves. Be sure to love yourselves!

Our world is burdened with anger, hatred, theft, murder, and violence. How can we stop this? It has to begin in the home. On this feast of the Holy Family we should reach out to estranged family members. Where we have been harmed, we must forgive. Where we have done harm we must ask for forgiveness. It’s not easy – but then hanging on a cross wasn’t easy either. Let us resolve on this feast of hope that we’ll not allow little or big things to break up our families. It is the family that is the source and strength of community; the community is the source of energy and focus for a nation: the nation is the source and energy of focus for a world gone mad. Through the Holy Family and through our families there is salvation for the whole world. May the Holy Family be the model we seek to imitate in our family. Let us see in Jesus the hope recognized by Simeon and Anna.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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Octave Day of Christmas – The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God JANUARY 1 2018

Numbers 6:22-27; Responsorial Psalm 67; Galatians 4:4-7; Gospel Acclamation Hebrews 1:1-2; Luke 2:16-21

The eighth day of Christmas tells us of God’s directive through Moses to Aaron and his sons – the priests of the Hebrew Covenant. God directs those priests to give this blessing to all the peoples:

"The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!"

What a wonderful blessing. As we think of this wonderful blessing and the sentiments it conveys to us, we should recall that each baptized person in the Christian Covenant is a priest, prophet and shepherd (king/queen). Thus if we heed the instruction of God, this is how we are to bless our families, our friends, our community, our nation, and our world. Those set aside from among the People of God are set aside to minister to and preside over our rituals and our communal prayers. But each of us is truly priest(ess) and should bless our children and our families each day. Such a ritual would change a great deal within us.

The reading from Galatians informs us we are no longer slaves to the world – we are not to be mere units of production to the Sadducees and chief priests; nor are we to be mere units of consumption to the merchants and traders – we are sons and daughters. We have received the Spirit of God into our hearts and we are no longer afraid to call upon God as a creator, as a commander in chief, nor even as a moral judge. No, No, NO! We now call God "Dad", for he is Abba to us adopted sons and daughters. Into our hearts the blessing of Aaron finds good and fertile soil so our hearts and minds may grow in our relationship with creation, with fellow humanity, and most certainly with our God.

But it is the Gospel that provides us the most encouragement. Mary – this is after all the Solemnity of Mary – was first to receive the blessing of God by which her virginity brought forth into the world a son, no THE Son. She is the first disciple, the model for us all. Her humility was not debasement but the humility of a child of God. Yet she, the first disciple watched and listened to all that was done and was said regarding and by her Son. It is said "Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart." That is our model – to keep the presence of her Son our Brother and our Savior forever in our hearts and ponder there his words and his works. And then to apply those words and works to all our relationships. Then we too are disciples and kin to Mary.

Just as God blessed Mary and through her each of us -- whether Catholic, Reformed Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, faithful of the religions that spring from study and contemplation of nature, all persons of faith -- all who contemplate and reflect on our lives and the blessings received daily are lifted up in his blessing. In those blessings even the terror and pain and stress of our lives are transformed into blessings that bring us into greater depth of living. In all that we rejoice because "God shines his face upon us" and provides us with the hope of a newborn child and the inexplicable love of the messiah whose final saving act was his surrender of himself in love for each one of us.

Let us rejoice with the shepherds and the angels and the wise men of all ages who come to the simple manger and find there the Son of God – Emmanuel, for it is true "God is with Us."

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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IN CELEBRATION OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF NAZARETH [B]

In the week before Christmas a little boy who lives near a church had a part in his school’s Nativity play. It wasn't a big part - in fact it was just one line: ‘Let the crooked be made straight.’ But it seems that he put more work into his one line then any actor before or since. At the performance itself he stood up, and with a big smile on his face delivered his line perfectly. At the end, at the back of the church-hall, his parish priest asked him how he had found it. He answered proudly: ‘I did my part good.’

That, I think, is what Simeon and Anna are saying to us in today's gospel. They have only small parts to play in the story of salvation. But they played them well, as well as they could. So Simeon can say: ‘Now Master, you can let your servant go in peace … because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see …’

Simeon, then, is thanking God for this special favour: At the very end of his life, God is letting him meet Jesus the Messiah, the Saviour and King of the world. Anna too, another elderly person, is sharing this privilege of meeting the Saviour of the world in the person of the Christ-child. For this special grace she too begins to praise God. But more than that, she speaks to anyone who shows any interest, of the greatness, goodness and destiny of this baby.

For both Simeon and Anna their experience of meeting the Christ-child is one of relief and peace, light and life, hope and joy. In a word, their meeting with Jesus is an experience of being saved. They are also aware that the Christ-child himself is meeting his God in God's own house.

For us who have come together today to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the feast is a reminder of all that Christ has meant to us, and all that he continues to mean to us. We came into his presence and company on the day we were led into the House of God to be baptised. We have met him many times since. For example, in the guidance and protection, the goodness and kindness, the love and support, of our parents! In the friendship of many other family members and of many other significant people in our lives! In particular things too that have happened to us! We have also met Christ in other sacraments we have celebrated, and especially in those of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Marriage.

It is precisely because of the length and depth of our relationship with Christ, that we can praise God in our Eucharist today with words taken from the Christmas Preface which we will be praying: 'In him we see our God made visible and so are caught up in the love of the God we cannot see.'

Moreover, it is precisely because of the length and depth of our relationship with Christ that we will ask God in the words of our Prayer after Holy Communion: 'Eternal Father, we want to live as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in peace with you and one another. May this communion strengthen us to face the troubles of life. AMEN.’

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John
 


 

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