The Holy Family (commentary).

The Holy Family (commentary).


by Sr. Anne-Catherine AVRIL, NDS.

On this Sunday, December 30th we celebrate the holy family, so let’s explore the texts proposed by the Church with this guideline, and first of all, with the Gospel.

An ordinary Jewish family who, as usual, goes up to Jerusalem for Passover. According to the precept “three pilgrimages you will do for me each year”(Exodus 23:24), according to the Hebrew: actually three” Regalim “, that is to say that the legs (regel) are involved, one had at least to make the final climb to the temple on foot. Jesus at twelve years old, probably the age of religious majority (currently 12 years for girls, 13 for boys).

Jesus is lost within the crowd, yet nothing so surprising when you consider that crowds used to overwhelm Jerusalem during the holidays. This takes place during three days, you probably know this tradition that connects all three days of the Scriptures in the light of Hosea 6:2-3; all of them manifest a passage from slavery to freedom, from sadness to joy, from a state of lack to a state of abundance. Here, Jesus was lost and is found … and not anywhere: in the Temple; and not with anyone: among masters listening to them and asking them questions, under the given circumstances, it is perhaps surprising but for a Jewish child brought up in the tradition, this is understandable. The questions and answers, answers revealing more questions to which the answer is not necessarily found. One of our teachers here in Jerusalem told us that when he came back from school as a child, his father did not ask him if he had learned anything, but if he had asked good questions. We can be found like Mary, really questioned when he meets his parents: don’t you know that I must be in my Father … What father? Joseph? God?

And Mary kept all these things or sayings in her heart. We can recall the attitude of Jacob to Joseph’s dreams. It is said Jacob kept the thing. He doesn’t understand his son’s dreams more then Mary does, but instead of reprimanding him or hate him, like his brothers, he feels that it comes from God and keeps it all carefully, leaving the sayings and events mature in him, the living memory which gradually reveals its sense. The respectful attitude of every parent to their child in front of the mystery of their child.

Mary knows that those words are beyond her reach, but she keeps it all in her, Word and event, living event, of which God will gradually reveal her the scope. 

Allow time to mature, while accompanying. The attitude of the people at the birth of John the Baptist: Who will be this child?

Jesus, a child like any child grew in wisdom and grace before God and men. An ordinary Jewish child, and an extraordinary child who never ceases to amaze.

About the first reading, again both parents and child. We know the story of the birth of Samuel. His father Elkanah goes up to the temple for the offering after the fulfilment of the vows about the infant. Hanna prefers to go later and told her husband with determination. We can regret that the liturgical cut deprives us of the wonderful responses of Elkanah: Woman, do what is good in your eyes, stay here until it is weaned, provided the word of the Lord is fulfilled. What respect of the husband towards his wife, what freedom of the woman to her husband.

She breastfeeds him and weans him, then take the temple day by day. She received him from God, she takes him to God. She doesn’t argue about it, but probably she wonders: “Who is this child?”. Her place in the plan of God for Israel. In any case, she manifests a maternal love that is far from being possessive.

And Psalm 84? Is it an ascent Psalm to Jerusalem, to the Temple?” They walk from height to height and God appears to them on Sion?” Every family is called to be God’s dwelling, a miniature temple in the words of Ezekiel (miqdash me-at). Or, continuing the psalm: If the swallow finds a nest for its small, more so, families should take care of the household that welcomes children.

In the letter of St John, I’d like to stress: From now on we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been revealed …

The fact that we are children of God is not an image of the divine fatherhood, it’s the reality. And we are still far to measure the scope of what this means, it is throughout our lives that this will be revealed to us to the full manifestation. In the meantime, we keep this reality in its revealing power in the living memory of the heart, by living it, by feeding and cultivating it. As in a family, parents realize their parenthood respecting the mystery of their child and giving him a chance to grow and reveal himself. As the ideal to which we must not renounce is that children learn from their relationship with their parents what means divine paternity but they only realize it much later…