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Continue to Say Yes

· Fr Phil Paxton

To all,

On the Sunday after Christmas, unless Christmas is on a Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Our Gospel reading (Luke 2:22-40) takes place after the birth of Jesus; after the shepherds have visited; after the Magi have brought their gifts. It is now forty days after the birth, and following Jewish religious practice, the child Jesus is brought to the Temple to “present him to the Lord.”

Following our reflection from last Sunday, we see that Mary, and Joseph, have continued their “Yes” to God. And now, in the Temple, Mary is faced with having to say “Yes” again. When Mary and Joseph bring the baby Jesus to the Temple, they encounter an old man whose name is Simeon. Simeon is a holy man, who has grown close to God, and God has let him know, in the Spirit, that he would not die until he saw the salvation of Israel. And so the Spirit has led him to the Temple just at this time to see Jesus.

So here is this man, who probably has an aura, or a sense of holiness about him, but who still is a stranger to Mary and Joseph, who comes up to them, and starts prophesying about the child! In many ways, what Simeon says to Mary and Joseph is similar to what they heard from the shepherds and from the Magi, but still it must have seemed astonishing.

And then, Simeon tells Mary something that is unlike what she and Joseph have heard before: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall [of the rich and powerful] and rise [of the poor and afflicted] of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword shall pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” (The words in square brackets are mine).

I wrote last week that I didn’t believe that Mary understood all of what being the mother of the Messiah would entail. Now she is made to understand quite a bit more. She now knows that the Messiah is to fulfill His mission contrary to what worldly wisdom would expect, and the powers to be won’t like it. And then she is led to understand what mothers throughout history, and anyone else, for that matter, who has chosen to love beyond themselves have found out; that love involves suffering. Not because love is deceitful in some way. No, because when we truly love someone (again, this is not so much romantic love we’re talking about), when they hurt, we hurt in some way. Mary was told that she would suffer anguish and pain because her Son would be contradicted and made to suffer.

Can you imagine hearing something such as was said by Simeon? I would have been tempted to think, “The angel didn’t tell me that was going to happen!” But even though we don’t hear Mary say words like “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord,” she still says “Yes.” She continues to love, even when she knows how much will be asked of her.

Our call is to continue to say “Yes:” to life and to love, to hope and to joy; to faith and to trust in God; and to justice and peace. And as we reflect on the Holy Family, we see that this call pushes us beyond our immediate family to the human family, and indeed, to all of creation. Can we see that for what we yearn for our family, we ought to yearn for everyone?

May we grow in holiness, and continue to say “Yes” to our loving God.

I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.

In the Name of the Holy Family,

Phil, CP