Feast of the Holy Family (Sunday 31st December)

Reflection for Feast of the Holy Family, Sun. 31st December 2017. Lk. 2:22-40
The year 2018 will be for the Church a time of emphasizing the value of family life. With the international congress being held in Dublin in August, it is a privileged moment for Irish people especially to think about the present day multiple style families and how to give them pastoral care.

My own history offers me abundant material to write about family life. A family with a difference, a double deckered one you might call it, where a widowed man with a large young family remarries quickly and starts a new family with his new bride. I learned early on the need for tact in order to build unity, fairness in order to build peace, forgiveness to build love. Pope Francis summed it up in popular language. He advises: Three words are to be used frequently in family life, “please, thank you, I’m sorry”. The reading from Colossians for today’s feast puts it more beautifully. “Put on as God’s chosen ones, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.”

In my family, I also experienced living with all age groups, and adapting constantly. We find all ages in the Temple of Jerusalem, scene of today’s Gospel, Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Anna and Simeon. That these five personages happened to be in the same place at the same time is just as big a mystery as how you or I, or any one of us, came to be born into such and such a family, in such and such a country, at such and such a time.

There is a powerful song about this called in Spanish. COINCIDIR. The song reflects on the reality of a meeting between people. It wonders that out of all the worlds that exist, all the centuries of time, all the vastness of spaces/places, to coincide in a given place at a given moment has a truly magical – even puzzling- significance. As children my siblings and I often bugged our parents to tell us about how they first met, where and when etc., a moment of major significance for us of course, as well as for them.

I think that Nunc dimittis, intoned by a grateful Simeon, especially the Nunc, captures this mysterious moment of coincidence. Now is such a powerful word. Eastern spiritualities define holiness as learning to live in the now – the present moment. In Simeon that resounding Now summed up a whole life of hope in the Spirit, a recognition of how all history would be changed from then onwards.

As we enter on a new calendar year, may we be awake to the significance of every encounter. May we treasure the NOW moments when in myriad ways our “eyes see God’s salvation” as Simeon did. Surely then we will grow in age and grace and wisdom.

Sister Ronnie Rafferty OP

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