Sunday, December 31, 2017

Holy Family, Year B, 31.12.2017

Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6, 12-14 / Colossians 3:12-21 / Luke 2:22-40
Today the 31st December is certainly not just another day. Today, we have come to the end of the calendar year 2017, and we stand on the threshold of a new calendar year.

Here, as well as in other places all over the world, people will be participating in the countdown to the new year with parties and merry-making. The idea is to start the new year with a “bang” and on a high note.

But on this day, as we prepare to welcome the new year, the significance of this day also beckons us to look back at what lies behind us, to look at what has happened in 2017 as it comes to a close.

Certainly there are many significant events on the local and international scene. Maybe we can recall that the US has a new president; maybe we can recall there was flooding in the MRT tunnel.

Maybe we can recall that 4 churches are opened after extensive and expensive renovation and building programs – Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, Church of the Transfiguration and Novena Church.

Yes, as we look back and recall the events that shaped 2017, we remember with thanksgiving. Yes, we thank God for His blessings and for being with us and bringing us to the last day of 2017 and that we can look forward to 2018 with hope in more blessings to come.

Today, the Church also celebrates a significant feast, the feast of the Holy Family, and the gospel begins with this:

“When the day came for them to be purified, as laid down by the Law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord ...”

For Mary and Joseph, much had happened and as they present the child Jesus to the Lord, they would surely want to give thanks that they were still holding on together.

From the Annunciation to the Presentation, there were events there were so significant and filled with mystery that is beyond reality.

Mary had a visit from the angel Gabriel who had a mission for her and she said “Yes”. Joseph had dreams and he also said “Yes”. They had to go to Bethlehem and together they said “Yes”. They accepted the stable as the place of birth for Jesus. And now, in obedience to the Law of Moses, they presented Jesus to the Lord.

But much had happened, and more is to come. The upright and devout Simeon came along and took the child Jesus in his arms. For him, at last, his eyes have seen the promised Saviour and his eyes can now rest in peace.

For Anna, the 84 year old widow, her vigil is over and she can now look forward to a peace-filled sunset.

But as for Mary and Joseph, they have to be prepared for what is to come. Especially for Mary, that sword will pierce her soul.

But the experiences of Mary and Joseph with the child Jesus are not just confined to themselves in the celebration of the feast of the Holy Family. Because it makes us think about the experiences of our own families.

We might remember that this feast is termed the “Holy Family” and not the “perfect family” or the “ideal family”.

And that is also the reality of our families isn’t it? Our families are neither perfect nor ideal, whatever perfect or ideal might mean.

But our families must strive to be holy, and here is where the Holy Family is the model for our families.

In spite of their trials and tribulations and having to care for and protect Jesus, they radiated holiness and brought peace to people who encountered them.

Simeon saw what his eyes longed to see and for Anna her waiting was over, and peace came upon them.

As we look at the senior members of our families, do we know what they are longing to see and do we know what they are waiting for? Are they waiting for us to visit them, and to bring the grandchildren to see them? May their waiting not be in vain, and may their eyes close peacefully with the sunset.

And about our children, are we forming them to love God first above all things? Do we bring them for Mass and Catechism classes on Sundays? It is not either-or; it is Mass and Catechism class. 

Yes, it is tough to juggle Mass and Catechism class on a Sunday morning. But these are the formative years. If we choose Catechism class over Mass just because no one checks their attendance at Mass, then when they are done with Catechism class after Confirmation, they will also be done with Church.

Because if in their growing-up years, Mass is seen as optional, then in their later years, Church will also be optional.

It is certainly more beneficial to take the trouble and bear with the inconvenience now than to have the sword pierce our hearts later on.

As this feast tells us, it is about holiness in the family and the difficult and challenging task of formation in holiness.

Let us listen to this passage and see if it sounds familiar:
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

We may think it is some parent lamenting or the older generation complaining about the younger generation.
But that passage was quoted from Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher (469–399 B.C.)

Seems like nothing much has changed. But something must change.

Mary and Joseph formed Jesus in holiness and He changed the thinking of the world.

But we can’t just keep thinking about it; we need to get it going. Like the Holy Family, let us strive for holiness as we look forward to the new year.

Let holiness be our focus, and God’s blessings will be abundant.