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Feast of the Holy Family—Great Praise Among Humble People


“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” (Luke 2:25-38).
 
Given their modest circumstances, Mary and Joseph must have been especially surprised at the glorious events in the temple. First, Simeon, an old man filled with the Spirit, takes the child in his arms. He, like Mary earlier in Luke’s Gospel, is moved to praise God in song. Then, the old woman Anna, a prophet, likewise celebrates at the sight of Jesus. She cannot contain her enthusiasm and immediately begins spreading the news of the child.
 
Luke’s Gospel is full of instances in which humble people give dramatic expressions of praise in response to an encounter with the divine. This is fitting and gives us comfort, because the inspiring, empowering, life-giving message of the Gospel is for all, no matter how great or small our place in society may be.
 
No one who encounters Jesus in the episodes described in Luke’s Gospel goes away unchanged, and each responds to that encounter. Mary accepts Simeon’s rather ominous prophecy about her future heartache; Joseph agrees to raise a child that is not his own, knowing people will gossip; Simeon accepts his coming death in peace and praise; and Anna sets out to spread the message.
 
For us, the task is the same: to become attentive to the God who is ever beckoning us into relationship and, through this relationship, take steps to become the person God is calling us to be. In our everyday lives, the more we grow in love, the closer we grow to God and each other.
 
When have I recognized God’s presence in ordinary people or situations, and how has that experience affected me?
 
Adapted from, Word on the Go, a downloadable resource from RENEW International.

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