Feast of the Holy Family Preaching by Sister Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP December 26, 2021 1 Sm 1:20-22, 24-28 Lk 2:41-52 The Feast of the Holy Family is an essential part of the Christmas Season. It makes clear that the Incarnation means not just that the Divine Word assumed a human body, but entered into every aspect of human life. Today we hear the stories of the awakening of two prophetic leaders to their Divine Call. The first reading recounts an old story of Samuel, the prophetic leader who anointed David as king. The Old Testament story is a legend that serves as an introduction to a collection of historical traditions in which Samuel plays a key role. Well, one of the interesting things is that in Jewish tradition – not the Bible, but in Jewish tradition – the boy Samuel was 12 years old when he went into the tabernacle and was called by God, heard the voice of God, and began to prophesy. What some scholars have suggested is that one of the reasons Luke tells us that Jesus was 12 years old is because he wants to reveal to us that Jesus, likewise, is coming into his own and into his role as priest and prophet and king. What Luke offers is a glimpse of Jesus beginning to make the break from his family life in order to commit himself more closely to God. Jesus is bringing to light his divine vocation. He has found his voice and taken his place. That voice and place is “in his father’s house.” The setup for Jesus’ coming out and entrance into the religious community is a family trip. On this particular trip, the twelve-year-old and his parents became separated. Since children in ancient times transitioned into adulthood around the age of thirteen, the disappearance of Jesus may not have been all that traumatic, young as he was. It would have been typical for a twelve-year-old boy, who was coming of age, to be with the men of the group, rather than his parents. It would have been natural for Mary and Joseph to believe that he was with relatives or friends elsewhere in the caravan returning home. Entire villages were known to make the pilgrimage together. When the Mary and Joseph finally realized he was not in the caravan, they went back in haste to Jerusalem, and after three days, were astonished to find Jesus in the midst of the temple rabbis. When Mary speaks to him, there is great distress in her voice: “Son, why Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Mary struggles to make sense of her young son’s response and just as she pondered in her heart the inspired events of Bethlehem, Mary chooses to keep these temple events in her heart as well. In this, we recognize the ongoing fidelity of Mary, as she came to accept and identify with the response of her Son, as the first of all his disciples. She begins to know the ‘sword’ Simeon foretold would ‘pierce her soul.’ Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. Is this story the reason for the feast? Or is it that Joseph, Mary and Jesus each possessed a unique identity, but together they experienced God’s eruption into their lives? Opening their hearts to God interrupted and changed the course of their lives radically. Mary became a contemplative at heart. Joseph became deeply attuned to the silence within. And Jesus incarnated the presence of the compassionate God-with-us. Jesus fully enters into the human experience, with all its peaks and valleys. And a part of that human experience, with more than its share of peaks and valleys, is family. The Gospel story ends with these words: “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God.” Jesus discerned, understood and embraced his divine vocation as he lived each day with his family. St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians reminds us that we are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. Pope Francis wrote in Gaudete Et Exsultate , “The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts. Like Jesus, how many of us discerned our own path in life and the most personal gifts that God has placed in our hearts in the environment of family? So on this day, I invite you to pause and think about the “Holy” families that have been an integral and precious part of your life. For me this list includes my Family of Birth, my Family of Faith, my Family of Choice, the Adrian Dominican Congregation, my Family of Dominic, my Multi-cultural Family in our world, and my Family of Earth. I also include the families of friendship and support that were part of my life during my many years in ministry. In each of these precious families, I discovered and grew in my unique identity and call in life as God’s chosen one, holy and beloved. In these families, God was and continues to be revealed to me through the heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness of my parents; my siblings; you, my religious sisters; my friends and co-ministers; the people of other nations, especially South Africa; and my family of Sacred Earth. I am also thankful for the times and ways I offered these same gifts to those in each of my families. So on this day I invite you to reflect on the list of “holy” families you have come to treasure in your life. Give thanks and praise for the many ways God was revealed to you in each family and for the many ways you revealed God to them. Today we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and our Holy Families. Let us rejoice and be glad.