Lectio Divina for Feast of the Holy Family, Dec. 27, 2020
When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
They took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“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.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“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.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
We pray that all may meet Christ before they die. In fact, this Gospel passage is a fulfilment of that promise. It may seem like we have to wait for God for a long time when we are waiting for an answer to our prayers, but he does answer them in his timing. His timing is better than ours because he knows things we do not know, and his understanding of us and the truth are perfect. Christ came in the fullness of time, on just the right day. It was all planned from the beginning, from the day we fell in the Garden of Eden and God told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15), referring to Mary and Jesus bringing salvation to the world.
my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples
Have all peoples seen the salvation of God? This was the prayer of the psalmist: “that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving power among all nations” (Psalm 67:2) It was proclaimed by John the Apostle, “All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:4). Other psalms point to the promise as well, “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name” (Psalm 86:9), and, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord” (Psalm 22:27). But still today we hear that many people do not know God, and have not seen his salvation. This Christmas season, let’s be the people who help make these words of Scripture true, by telling everyone we know about God’s salvation offered through Jesus Christ his son.
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him
How much did Mary and Joseph know regarding God’s plan for Jesus’ life? It’s a mystery we may never know this side of heaven. As faithful Jews, they knew the Scriptures. They knew God’s salvation was coming. Nonetheless, this probably still did not prepare them for the things Simeon said.
—and you yourself a sword will pierce— so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
Those who doubt Mary’s role in salvation overlook verses like this one. Mary acts behind the scenes, but her part is indelible. Her Immaculate Heart is the heart of a mother who experienced the greatest tragedy a mother can experience, the death of her child. In that piercing agony, the hearts of many are revealed to her. She understands the human condition like no other besides God himself.
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
Throughout this Gospel passage we are reminded of how God fulfilled his promise to bring a savior to his people. He called Israel to be his people so that it may bring salvation to the rest of the world. Those who accept that salvation, those who accept Jesus, now parktake in the redemption of Jerusalem spoken here. Jerusalem was the stepping stone to the heavenly Jerusalem, a necessary piece in God’s story of salvation for the world. Now we can imagine that Jerusalem represents each of our hearts. Will we accept Jesus with palm branches as his followers did as he entered the city, or will we reject him as his accusers did? Many times when God answers our prayers, it’s not in the way we wanted him to answer them. Many are offered redemption, but fewer accept. Even some who were waiting did not accept it in the form it came. In what way are you waiting for God to act? Have you given thanks to God for the ways he has intervened in your life?
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
These are the last lines about Jesus’ first years until we find him in the Temple twelve years later. Twelve years are covered by just seventeen words. That mystery alone is worth a meditation all on its own. For now, let it suffice to say that these few words describing how Jesus grew were chosen intentionally, as all words in Scripture are. He became strong. This may mean physically, as he was a carpenter’s foster son; but he became strong also in character and will power, building the foundation necessary to resist the devil in his later years. He was filled with wisdom perhaps because he was directed by good parents to read Scripture and follow Jewish law and customs. God’s favor was upon him. This is not to say he gained that favor, but proved worthy of the favor already given to him. As we see at his baptism, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, and God said, “This is my beloved son with whom I am well-pleased.” Consider this cultural parallel. A knight may be born into nobility, but he still has to prove his valor through his own deeds, or else his father may disown him and the noble line may not carry on through him. At many points, Christ could have given into temptation and abandoned his mission, as the Gospels make evident. He did not, though. He remained faithful and set an example for us to follow.
Lord, we come before you on this Feast of the Holy Family open to the gifts and graces you have to give us, willing to be obedient to your law of love, just as Mary and Joseph were obedient in presenting Jesus in the Temple. You have come to us as you promised. Now it is our turn to come to you. Give us the courage to do so. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
You may have a nativity scene set up in your house. Imagine for a moment that you are the shepherd, or one of the three kings, or maybe even Mary or Joseph. What is the infant Jesus saying to you in this solemn moment where heaven has met earth in a simple manger? Consider the blessing bestowed upon you to just be there. Jesus wants to move our hearts this season through the mystery of his incarnation and humble birth. In the quiet of winter, now that the hustle and bustle of Christmas day has settled down, take a moment to contemplate what our newborn savoir has to say.