This Sunday offers a great many choices. Choices are
Sir 3:2-7, 12-14 Psalm 128:1-5
or, in Year B
Gen 15:1-6; 21:1-3 Psalm 105:1-6, 8-9 Heb 11:8, 11-12, 17-19 Lk 2:22-40 or 2:22, 39-40
Before I realized all of the above options, I began preparing Sir 3:2-7, 12-14, Psalm 128, Col 3:12-21 and Lk 2:22-40.
Since I have three scholarly references to Genesis, two to
Psalm 105, one to Hebrews, and two references to overlapping readings in
My word for this Holy Family Sunday is wisdom.
The Presentation is the pertinent decade of the Rosary, the fourth of the Joyful Mysteries.
This is a very special feast for
Sir 3:2-7, 12-14 or Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3
Sirach, known as Ecclesiasticus in Latin, is part of the wisdom literature of the First Testament. Nova Vulgata uses a versification different from the Lectionary, namely 3-7, 14-17. I do not know and may have forgotten how to account for the difference.
A lot in these readings is very personal to me. Grandma Jirran’s brother was an irremovable
pastor (when priests still had such tenure comfort) of Holy Family Parish in
Mom abused her call to filial obedience. Sirach has it correct in how he directs family values toward mothers. Mothers, however, can overdo it.
verse 3b a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Such confirmation is Christian. Trying to deal with sexism in our society, I have noted that the rights and obligations of mothers and fathers, while overlapping, are different. Mothers tend to share and nourish as their obligations. Their rewards or rights are to be loved. On television, athletes will say “Hi Mom” but never “Hi Dad” as symbolic of my meaning. I do not mean that fathers are not loved, but that the love for father and mother are different. In our culture, as Mom shares, Dad competes. The reward for competing well is fear. What Sirach means when he writes that God confirms a mother’s authority is that tenderness and love trump competitiveness in the eyes of the Almighty.
verse 5a he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
verse 6b he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.
“Wait until your Father gets home” is one-way mothers work out their frustrations. As an aside, my mother did not add that burden onto Dad. Back to the main point, I do not remember that my mother ever encouraged me to obey Dad because that would bring comfort to her. Mom erred in not looking to Dad as a source of her own comfort when I obeyed her. It always bothered Mom that I obeyed Dad more readily and easily than her. The reason may very well have been that I knew that obeying Mom brought comfort to Dad.
The idea is that the self-discipline involved in obeying Mom and Dad enabled me to focus my mind enough for academic success that, in turn, brought personal and professional success and happiness. The Catholic Church needs encouragement as the Church wisely encourages parents to parent their children.
verses 15c-16 kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.
The idea of a plant in the
verse 1 The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying:
“Fear not, Abram!
I am your shield;
I will make your reward very great.”
Shield is no Father. Abraham is not related to God. Abraham is not invited to live God’s own life, as in wisdom, we are.
The idea in Genesis 15:1 is that
verse 5 The Lord took Abram outside and said,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
This is the first of the patriarchal blessings, a blessing
Psalm 128:1-5 or 105:1-6, 8-9
No comment on Psalm 128
verse 1 Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the nations his deeds.
This verse looks back to Isaiah 12:3. The thanks is for deliverance,
verse 4 Look to the LORD in his strength;
constantly seek his face.
The Canaanites had statues with faces; the Israelites did not. Seeking the face of God is a phrase taken from the Canaanites. For us, this phrase would mean to find the finger of God in our everyday surroundings, in those creations in which non-believers make idols.
The following verses are from Colossians 3.
verse 12 Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience
verse 15 And let
the peace of
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
cheerfulness and happiness, is something one can will for oneself, a type of
insisting and letting the peace of
Because there is little scholarly work that I found for these Holy Family readings, I will spend more time with the Greek.
verse 22 … they
took him up to
verse 24 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.
As often presented,
verse 26 … had seen the Christ of the Lord.
verse 29 “Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word
The Greek for let your servant go carries the connotations of manumission from slavery.
verse 31 which you prepared in sight of all the peoples
The Latin (the Greek is more subtle) has before the face of all the peoples meaning
verse 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
glory for your people
verses 34-35 “Behold, this child is destined
the fall and rise of many in
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.”
The grammarian observes, “the climax of contradiction (the
Cross) being obliquely implied in the suffering of
The Venerable Saint Bede (672-735), priest and confessor, Doctor of the Church, observed, “But even to the end of this present world, the sword of most dire tribulation will not cease to pierce the soul of the Church…”
verse 36 … having lived seven years with her husband …
The grammarian does not like the translation, “with her husband.” The meaning is in wedlock, as a married woman.
verse 37 … but worshipped night and day with fasting and prayer.
Worshipped translates the Latin serviens or serving. This is the public worship sense in which we used to speak of altar servers. Serviens also goes back to the root word for slave.
verse 38 And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
all who were awaiting the redemption
The grammarian writes that redemption means ransom from slavery. We concentrate moving along the three Exodus-es in the Second Sunday in Advent: (1) from Egypt, (2) from Babylon, (3) from sin. Saint John Chrysostom (354-407), one of the Four Great Eastern Doctors of the Church, confessor, Archbishop of Constantinople, describes the Christian dispensation, “For when the lascivious becomes chaste, and the avaricious merciful, and the fierce gentle, then we have here a resurrection; since sin being dead, justice is now risen.”
However, get the picture
verse 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.
To grow is an
animal act first. To grow is also a very special human,
rational animal, act, especially to grow
in wisdom. To reflect that
Theophylactus, Patriarch of Bulgaria (765-840), ignoring the
hypostatic union, whereby
for if while yet a Child He had revealed all His wisdom He would be looked upon as something strange. So He revealed Himself with the growth of the years, that He might fill the whole earth. Not as one who receives wisdom is He said to grow in wisdom. How can that be perfected which was from the beginning perfect? Hence, full of wisdom; and the grace of God was in Him.
This is Holy Family Sunday a time to refocus family values, values centered on wisdom, rather than personal control.
Nova Vulgata: Bibliorum Sacrorum
Editio: Sacrosancti Oecumenici Concilii Vaticani II ratione habita Iussu Pauli
PP, VI Recognita Auctoritate Joannis Pauli PP, II Promulgata Editio Typica
 National Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Roman Missal Restored by Decree of the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican and Promulgated by Authority of Pope Paul VI: Lectionary for Mass: For Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America: Second Typical Edition: Volume I: Sundays, Solemnities, Feasts of the Lord and Saints (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1998).
The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of
Catholicism, general editor, Richard P.
 Robert A. J. Gagnon, "Why the `Weak’ at Rome Cannot Be Non-Christian Jews,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 1 (January 2000), page 80.
 Mark Allan Powell, “The Magi as Kings: An Adventure in Reader-Response Criticism,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 3 (July 2000), page 483.
 Sue Gillingham, “From Liturgy to Prophecy: The Use of Psalmody in Second Temple Judaism," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 3 (July 2002), page 472.
Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., The
Spirituality of the Psalms (
 Theophylactus, “Exposition from the Catena Aurea” by Saint Thomas Aquinas as quoted in The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers: Volume One: From the First Sunday of Advent to Quinquagesima, tr. and ed. M. F. Toal, D.D. (P.O. Box 612, Swedesboro, NJ 08085: Preservation Press, 1996), page 169-170.