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Feast of the Holy Family: Putting our faith in God’s word will bring us new life


Scripture readings for Dec. 31, 2023,Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Sir 3:2-6, 12-14  Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5  Col 3:12-21 or 3:12-17  Lk 2:22-40

Putting our faith in God’s word will bring us new life

In paragraph 30 of his Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis wrote, “Every family should look to the icon of the Holy Family of Nazareth.”

As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, God’s word invites reflection on the joys, responsibilities, and challenges of family life in the light of Christian faith and discipleship.

The Book of Sirach describes the duty of gratitude to parents for the gift of life. Within families, gratitude becomes a source of harmony and peace. For, “respect for parents fills the home with light and warmth,” as the Catechism teaches (2219). Sacrifices – great and small – that a child makes to honor and care for parents is offered as a praiseworthy path. Moreover, there is a special gratitude for the gift of faith due to parents and grandparents whose example and witness to lived faith endures from one generation to the next.

The author of Sirach reminds us that God is the source of the authority of parents. As Sirach notes, “God who sets a father in honor over his children and confirms a mother’s authority over her sons.” God strengthens parents with wisdom to care for and raise their children, and guides children in the way of honor and respect for aging parents.

Abraham and Sarah are presented as models of faith in God who received the gift of Isaac in their old age. Beyond their child-bearing years, Abraham and Sarah put their faith in God’s word. Not knowing where they were to go or how their needs would be provided for, these models of faith trusted the power of God’s word and were blessed with the gift of life in Isaac.

Abraham and Sarah are models of faith to imitate as we strive to be missionary disciples of Jesus. Putting our faith in God’s word will bring new life to our hearts, minds, and families.

The same entrusting faith in God led Mary and Joseph to present the child Jesus in the temple, as described in the Gospel. In the sacred space of the temple holy men like Simeon, and holy women like Anna the prophetess, recognized the presence of the Son of God and expressed their faith in God with prayers of praise and thanksgiving. Their witness to faith inspires us to contemplate the icon of the Holy Family of Nazareth as we pray in faith, “speak to me, Lord.”

Question: How can the Holy Family of Nazareth be an icon of faith, hope, and love in the midst of the joys, responsibilities and challenges of family life?

Jem Sullivan holds a doctorate in religious education and is an associate professor of Catechetics in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.