Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, and we remember that it was always God’s intention that Jesus be part of a human family. Luke uncovers God’s desire that we become convinced to the depths of our being that God is always faithful to his Word. We see Jesus brought into the temple by Joseph and Mary to fulfill the requirements of the Law. What began for them in simple obedience led to the overwhelming realization that God had already begun to fulfill the greatest promise of all.
Soon Simeon and Anna appear, both giving testimony that God intends to do great things through this Child. Both of them had spent long years listening to the whispers of God in their hearts. Simeon had been promised that he would not die until he had seen the Promised One. In spite of his long wait, he never lost hope in God’s promise. Then suddenly Jesus was there, and Simeon knew, deep in his heart, that this Child was the promised One. He took Jesus in his arms, and his heart must have burst within him. He was holding the One destined to bring light and salvation – not only to the Jews, but to the whole world… Simeon felt complete. Now God could call him home – all that he had ever longed for was really coming to pass, and there could be no greater joy for him than this…
When Anna arrives, Luke calls her a “prophetess”. God had prompted her to enter the temple at just that moment to witness this blessed event. God had come to be among his people, and those whose hearts are ready are awe-struck at the sight. Anna knows, just as Simeon had, that the moment of fulfillment had come. Her heart recognizes the Gift of God being offered in this tiny Child.
Why do we focus on this story on the Feast of the Holy Family? Not because Mary, Joseph & Jesus were simply there in the Temple, together as a family. Rather, it is because they were there in faith and in hope, and together they received a prophecy about Jesus’ future. Anna & Simeon must have encouraged Mary and Joseph to embrace the mystery of their life with this Child, whom they have lovingly received from the hand of God, and are now called to prepare for a future no one can imagine.
On this Feast, God would speak to us a word of encouragement too. He would remind us that all that God has promised will be fulfilled in our lives, too. God does not promise any of us an easy journey, but he promises to be with us on that journey, and to prepare the way before us. May each of us have the heart of Anna and Simeon. May we long only for the coming of our God into this dark world. May God always be able to use us as beacons of light and hope for others.
God has fulfilled his Promise: our God is with us – Emmanuel.
-Sr. Patrice Yarborough
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