This Sunday offers a great many choices.  Choices are

Sir 3:2-7, 12-14 Psalm 128:1-5 Col 3:12-21 or 3:12-17 Lk 2:22-40

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 Luke, I will work six of these eight references into these notes.

 

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 Saint Joseph.

 

Sir 3:2-7, 12-14 or Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3

 

Sirach, known as Ecclesiasticus in Latin[1], is part of the wisdom literature of the First Testament.  Nova Vulgata uses a versification different from the Lectionary,[2] 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 Cleveland, Ohio.  I pay attention to the Holy Family.  Wisdom rests in seeking God over all things.  Such seeking is available to everyone beginning and ending at any time in life.  Surely, in my case the rewards for such seeking are both material and immaterial.  My life is comfortable, both body and soul.

 

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 garden of God was one of the tender ideas of the great almost-Twentieth Century Saint, Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-97).  Thérèse thought of herself as a Little Flower in God’s great Garden of Paradise.  Thérèse found her spiritual nourishment especially from Scripture and the works of John of the Cross (d. 1591).[3]

Gen 15:1-6; 21:1-3

 

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.[4]

 

The idea in Genesis 15:1 is that Abraham believed in God’s promises before, during, and after he was asked to sacrifice Isaac.[5] Tough love is wisdom.

 

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 in which Mary, Joseph, Simeon, and Anna hoped, along with Abraham and us.  The other patriarchal blessings are found in Genesis 22:17; 26, 3-4. [6]

 

Psalm 128:1-5 or 105:1-6, 8-9

 

No comment on Psalm 128

 

Psalm 105

 

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,[7] then from Egypt, now from sin.

 

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.[8]  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.

 

Col 3:12-21 or Heb 11:8, 11-12, 17-19

 

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 Christ control your hearts,

                               the peace into which you were also called in one body.

 

Peace, like cheerfulness and happiness, is something one can will for oneself, a type of insisting and letting the peace of Christ control your hearts, as Colossians puts it.  That is wisdom.

 

Luke 2:22-40

 

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 Jerusalem

 

Bethlehem has higher elevation above sea level, than Jerusalem.  This means that taking him up to Jerusalem is a type of technical term.[9]  Why not think of this as a taking of Jesus up into the hearts of the Faithful, by analogy at least.

 

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, Jesus came from a “middle-class´ carpenter’s family.  The offering they choose, however, was the offering of the poor.  I do not remember anyone ever preaching that way, especially just before the offertory collection.  Notice that the pigeons are fledglings, not highly trained homing pigeons, for example.

 

verse 26        … had seen the Christ of the Lord.

 

Luke means the Messiah.[10]

 

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.[11]

 

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,

                                         and glory for your people Israel.”

 

Christ’s peace is prepared before our faces.  That is wisdom.

 

verses 34-35           “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.”

 

The grammarian observes, “the climax of contradiction (the Cross) being obliquely implied in the suffering of Mary.”[12]  My experience is that revealing the thoughts of hearts comes at the cost of the Cross.  From the time of this fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, Mary and the Holy Family must have been much more aware of the cost of revealing hearts.  Mary and Joseph must have spent considerable effort keeping Jesus out of as much such trouble as they could as he, inadvertently, revealed hearts.

 

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…”[13]

 

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.[14]

 

verse 37                  … but worshipped night and day with fasting and prayer.

 

Worshipped translates the Latin serviens or serving.  This is the public worship[15] 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

                               to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

 

The grammarian writes that redemption means ransom from slavery.[16]  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.”[17]

 

However, get the picture Luke portrays, this wizened old woman, night and day in the temple, coming forward, spoke about the child to all—Luke never says anyone listened.  God’s voice was in her mouth, indeed.  Gregory of Nyssa (+394), confessor, Doctor of the Church, puts it this way, “Because Anna the prophetess spoke but little regarding Jesus, and that with no clear meaning …”[18]

 

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 Jesus grew in wisdom is a comfort to my own growth and need to do more in wisdom.

 

Theophylactus, Patriarch of Bulgaria (765-840), ignoring the hypostatic union, whereby Jesus knew as both God and man, observes the following.

 

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.[19]

 

 

This is Holy Family Sunday a time to refocus family values, values centered on wisdom, rather than personal control.

 



[1] 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 Altera (00120 Citta Del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979, 1986, 1998) ISBN 88-2209-2163-4

 

[2] 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).

 

[3] The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, general editor, Richard P. McBrien (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco: A Division of Harper Collins Publishers, 1995), pages 1251-1252.

 

[4] Mark K. George, “Fluid Stability in Second Samuel 7," the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 1 (January 2002), page 35.

 

[5] 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.

 

[6] 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.

 

[7] 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.

 

[8] Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., The Spirituality of the Psalms (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2002) ISBN 0-8146-2599, page 42.

 

[9] Max Zerwick, S.J. and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament unabridged, 5th, revised edition (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico 1996), page 178.

 

[10] Max Zerwick, S.J. and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament unabridged, 5th, revised edition (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico 1996), page 178.

 

[11]Max Zerwick, S.J. and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament unabridged, 5th, revised edition (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico 1996), page 179.

 

[12] Max Zerwick, S.J. and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament unabridged, 5th, revised edition (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico 1996), page 179.

 

[13] Bede, “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 167.

 

[14] Max Zerwick, S.J. and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament unabridged, 5th, revised edition (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico 1996), page 180.

 

[15] Max Zerwick, S.J. and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament unabridged, 5th, revised edition (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico 1996), page 180.

 

[16] Max Zerwick, S.J. and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament unabridged, 5th, revised edition (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico 1996), page 180.

 

[17] Chrysostom, “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 166.

 

[18] Gregory Nyssa, “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 168.

[19] 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.