Every day provides us with opportunities to reflect on the wonder of God’s love for us and the Gospel of today’s Feast enables us to see that love reflected at every age of life.
Simeon is an example of patient waiting and trust. He has lived his whole life in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah and, as he takes the Infant Jesus in his arms in the act of Presentation, his life’s work is complete. His eyes have seen salvation. His expectations and hopes are fulfilled. Anna the elderly woman, who is always at prayer, rejoices and her joy spills over as she tells everyone she meets that the Immanuel – God-with-us – is here.
Mary and Joseph, carrying out their responsibilities as devout Jews, have offered their firstborn to the Father. The Word made flesh is offered to the God who spoke the Word at the very dawn of time. Just as Mary ponders in her heart at the birth of her Son, so must we. To realise that this infant child, reliant upon Mary and Joseph, is the “Word that was with God…in the beginning” is a most wonderful truth. Simeon, in his own way, expressed what John writes: “The Word was made flesh. He lived among us.”
As we gaze upon the Holy Family, gathered with Simeon and Anna in the Temple or in their home in Nazareth during the thirty hidden years, our first response must be “to look, listen, to meditate and penetrate the meaning…of this very simple, very humble and very beautiful manifestation of the Son of God.”
Such reflection will draw us closer to Jesus and enable us to understand more deeply the wonder of our own family life. No matter how small or large our family may be, “the family is the original cell of social life.” It is in the family that the “foundations [are laid] for freedom, security and fraternity within society.” It is in the context of the family that we are trained “to live together in this greater home [society]. In the family, we learn closeness, care and respect for others.”
Family life is never without its struggles and difficulties, but it is in the midst of these struggles – perhaps sometimes even because of them – that we grow in our witness to the One who is God-with-us. The family is a community of action, a place where the Gospel is proclaimed and where witness to Christ is given through “solidarity with the poor, openness to a diversity of people, the protection of creation, moral and material solidarity with other families, including those most in need, commitment to the promotion of the common good and the transformation of unjust social structures, beginning in the territory in which the family lives, through the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.”
All must be modelled on the person of Jesus and when we look, listen and reflect on the Holy Family we also learn to imitate. On this Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth and on every day, may we rejoice with Simeon that the Messiah has come; may we listen to the Holy Family and reflect, as Mary did, on the wonder of God’s love; may the love of the Saviour, whom the Father placed in the care of the Family of Nazareth, transform our families, that we may truly be his witnesses to the World.
With every Blessing,
Bishop of Arundel & Brighton