Dear Believers in the Christ,
In Luke 2: 22-40, we hear with our own ears the beautiful words of Simeon who spotted the child Jesus. He had waited in the Temple for many years for that moment. I imagine him with a grey beard and old dark clothing in the dark, dusty temple. Most people would have passed him up as another old, crazy man without a place to go. People must have known who he was and why he persistently waited in prayer. Then it happened, his eyes fell upon the small child with Mary and Joseph. His words were prophetic and wise.
Simeon becomes a prophet. His presence and his words ushered in a new reality. The child was destined to change the world. The gospel writer, Luke, puts these words into the old man’s mouth: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” These words are still prayed during Night Prayer in the Church. Imagine, for centuries, we have proclaimed just before bed, the beauty of Simeon’s testimony, that he lived long enough to see the child, who was destined to redeem the world.
Simeon also has words for Mary that would change her life. I am sure she would never have expected such an encounter bearing the small child in the temple. Simeon says these words, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted— and you yourself a sword will pierce— so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” These words spoken to Mary become Mary’s first of the Seven Sorrows. She will treasure the meaning of those words throughout her life and will live out such a prediction as she will learn to stand with Jesus during all the moments of his suffering.
As we continue to celebrate Christmas, we too, are part of the Holy Family. Through the gift of our baptism, we stand with those who waited to see the Christ Child and those who would witness his ministry, and his passion, death, and resurrection. We are part of God’s plan as well.
Now that the initial celebration of Christmas is past, at least the wrappings are off the gifts and the leftovers are in the refrigerator, we turn to this feast that celebrates our connection to something more than our earthly families. I am sure this Christmas has initiated new plans and various kinds of celebrations than in the past, due to the pandemic. The one thing the pandemic does not do is to rip apart our understanding that we still belong in God. We are still part of the family in which we celebrate today. The Holy Family is not just about Jesus and his parents, but about the connection that Christ has with his people. Here, the water of baptism is thicker than the blood of family. I rely on that to be true.
The Holy Family becomes another link as to why we serve people who most need us. We honor all of life, including the unborn, and those who need to be raised, educated and clothed. We honor our adults in nursing homes, and those in long-term facilities suffering from horrific disabilities and disease. There are no distinctions as to who is in the Family of God and who is not. Even our enemies must be cared for by the Christian. The Holy Family is an extended celebration of the Incarnation, Christmas, that is, God-with-us.
I hope that Zoom and FaceTime can carry the faces into your lives of those you love across the globe during these Christmas days. We ache to see the faces of those we love, just as Simeon finally laid his eyes on Jesus’s tiny eyes and grin. I want desperately for people to realize they belong in God. There is nothing that keeps any of us apart. Belonging is a fundamental notion of being human. And so many people feel at one point or another in life, that they do not belong, either in their families or in the Church.
Let’s make sure as the calendar turns the page to another year, that we take seriously Simeon and Anna in the gospel of Luke, that they waited to see Jesus even in their old age. They knew they belonged in God’s plan. Anna waited in the temple for years. She too, becomes a messenger of the reality of Jesus in the world. Perhaps we can work on making sure all people are supported, fed, educated, housed and listened to. Perhaps, our faith this year will challenge us to gaze upon the stranger and see the face of Jesus. I am counting on it.
Happy New Year.
God give you peace.
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor