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Holy Family - December 31, 2017


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By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

In the reading from Genesis, Abraham feels bad he has no heir.  God promises to shower Abraham with blessings but Abraham intends to pass his reward to his servant, Eliezer.  God, however reassures Abraham that he will have an heir.  God calls Abraham outside to count the stars if he can - just so will his descendants be.  According to Jeff Cavins in his series, Unlocking the Mysteries of the Bible, it was broad daylight when God called Abraham outside.  We know this because later in the story night falls and God makes a covenant with Abraham with an animal sacrifice.  If dusk follows the episode of  counting stars, then it must have been day time and impossible to count the stars.  That’s the point - we walk by faith not by sight.  Abraham realized that God was calling him to trust the Lord and Abraham did trust - that makes Abraham our father in faith.

 

Abraham is the father in faith not only for Christians but for Jews and Muslims as well.  Who would pick an elderly barren couple to be the ancestors of three great world religions?  You and I would have picked a young, fertile couple to give rise to descendants as numerous as the stars.  But God’s ways are not our ways and this should mark how we live as families.  We should discern God’s will in our decisions and trust that God will provide.  Susan and I never stopped to consider whether we had the money to have another child but somehow with each child I received a raise so we need not worry about money.  God is good all the time and all the time God is good!

I was listening to an interview of a pastor of a church in Puerto Rico and the first question was how his congregation’s celebration of Christmas can be joyful in the midst of the suffering that the island was suffering.  The pastor said that first of all, he lives by Romans 8:28: “All things work together for the good of those who love God.”  Then he said that God does not owe us explanations but that we owe God our obedience.  Few know that the word “Islam” in Arabic means “submission.”  Islam is based on radical submission to God’s will and profound obedience to God’s law.  If the followers of Mohamed are devoted to such obedience of God - how much more the followers of Jesus.  Mary is our model of humility and obedience when Gabriel asked her to be the Mother of God.  She did not understand her calling but said, “Yes” to God as the servant of God.  Likewise when Joseph found that Mary was with child he obediently accepted her as his wife.  We see how God’s plan of salvation was realized by the obedience of the Holy Family - and so we should be obedient to realize the plan of God in our families.

 

In the Gospel of Luke we encounter the figures of Simeon and Anna.  God allowed them the meet Jesus because of their fidelity, patience, and vigilance. God is still looking for families who meet Jesus by their vigilance before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration.  Simeon also revealed to Mary that she would suffer the sword of sorrow for her fidelity to her son - we must also be willing to accept hardship in our families because of our faith.

The vigilance of Simeon and Anna can be recalled every time we pray this family prayer:

Protect us Lord as we stay awake, watch over us as we sleep; that awake we may keep watch with Christ and asleep, rest in his peace.  Amen.