Family in turmoil and in faith

by May Tam

After the festive celebration of Christmas, the world hurriedly looks forward to the approaching of another year and its much elaborate preparation. Fortunately enough, this year, the liturgical celebration of the Holy Family falls on the same day as the secular celebration of the New Year's Eve, so that Christians may enjoy an even more meaningful celebration.

Inasmuch as Christmas is a theological celebration of God who sent His beloved Son to make His dwelling among humankind (to become incarnate), the family of Mary and Joseph is undeniably a human family, with all its social and cultural elements like any other families on earth. Loaded with these human elements, the Holy Family was not exempted from the challenges that an ordinary family would have to face and share. The Church reflects these challenges in her three-year cycles of readings —— in Year A, the struggles of refugees and migrants (rf Mt 2:13-15, 19-23); in Year B, the traditions of families (rf Lk 2:22-40) and in Year C, families who encounter misunderstandings, sorrows and anxieties (rf Lk 2:41-52).

Our Gospel Reading today (Year B) recalls a religious event of a postnatal ritual of a new Jewish family, the Judaic tradition to which the family belonged and devoutly followed. In the midst of this happy celebration, the parents were told of the somber future of their new born son. We can imagine Mary and Joseph's worries and uncertainties upon receiving this news. But not only with them, we can also empathize with those parents who learn about the problems of their children at birth, their failed expectations and foreseeable difficulties.

Underlying the presentation of Jesus in the temple, there is also a theological implication. It is the fulfillment of the anticipation of the promised messianic salvation (rf Is 42:6, 52:10). God has come to His own home (the temple in Jerusalem) and will reveal His glory to the Gentiles (rf Lk 2:29-32). At the same time, it is also a prelude to Calvary, the first indication of a suffering Messiah (rf Lk 2:34-35). Simeon's prophecy reveals Jesus' very presence would force a war of good and evil among peoples in the sense that, the humble would recognize the truth and will seek salvation through repentance; the proud would instead, harden in self-esteem, turn away, and oppose those who follow Christ. Later, Jesus Himself even applied this to the divisions of families because of Him (rf Mk 13:12, Mt 10:21-22, Lk 12:53).

The infancy narratives of both Matthew's and Luke's gospels thus provide us with a glimpse of the daily turmoil of family life and how to live out the turmoil through the example of the Holy Family. Let us pray, then, for families' unity in times of trials. Let us entrust each family to Jesus, Mary and Joseph for wisdom and grace, and let all families imitate the Holy Family in faith, perseverance, understanding and love.