Sunday, December 31, 2023

Holiness As Amplification

Feast of The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph (B)

Readings: Genesis 15: 1-6, 21: 1-3; Psalm 104 (105): 1-6, 8-9; Hebrews 11: 8, 11-12, 17-19; Luke 2: 22-40

Picture: By Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

My dear friends, can you hear me? If you can, isn’t it thanks to the sound system we have here in church? It lets us hear clearly, without anyone needing to shout. And though they come in different forms, ranging from a humble loudhailer to the sophisticated equipment used at live concerts, every sound system performs the same basic function. It amplifies sound. We might say it faithfully receives sound, resonates with it, before letting it reverberate more loudly and widely.

Reception, resonance and reverberation. This is also how holy families respond to the word of God, in our scriptures today. The family of Abraham and Sarah, and that of Joseph and Mary. But first it’s helpful to see the differences between them. Abraham is rich (Gn 13:2). His household includes many servants (Gn 12:16). He even has a child by Sarah’s Egyptian maid. A boy he names Ishmael (Gn 16:15). Joseph, however, is not rich. The sacrifice he and Mary bring to the Temple is the offering of the poor. Joseph’s household also seems small. And though Jesus is Mary’s first-born son, Joseph is not his biological father. Still, despite these differences, both families respond to God in similar ways.

The first two readings tell us that every time God speaks to him, Abraham and his family faithfully receive and resonate with God’s word. They hear and they obey. It is by faith that Abraham uproots his family, setting out without knowing where he’s going. It’s also by faith that he trusts in God’s promise of an heir, through whom he will father a multitude of descendants. Just as it’s by faith that he and Sarah conceive Isaac. And again by faith that he agrees to sacrifice Isaac, while believing that God's promise will be fulfilled. Through the reception and resonance of Abraham’s family, God’s word reverberates down through the ages, even to the present day.

We find this same high-fidelity reception, resonance and reverberation in the family of Joseph and Mary as well. In the gospel, we see how carefully they follow all that the Law of the Lord requires. We may also recall how faithfully Mary had earlier responded to God’s call at the Annunciation (Lk 1:38), and how Joseph had done the same, after waking from a dream (Mt 1:24). Through their reception and resonance, Joseph and Mary allow the Word of God to come among us in the flesh. So that the gospel reverberates with the praises of God. First in the Temple, through the voices of Simeon and Anna. And then at home in Nazareth, through the daily routine of the family, in which the Word-Made-Flesh is allowed to grow to maturity. To amplify over time. Until he’s ready to reverberate further throughout the world, and unto eternity.

Despite their differences, the families of Abraham and Joseph respond to God’s word in similar ways. Perhaps that’s why the gospel considers them not two but one (Lk 3:34). A single family of faith, of which we too are called to be a part.

Sisters and brothers, if the amplification of God’s Word is truly what characterises a holy family, then what can we do to let God make our own families just a little more holy today?

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