The Holy Family

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

December 31, 2023 – The Holy Family, Luke 2:22-40

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In recent weeks we have focused on Mary, the wife and mother of the Holy Family. In contrast to the lower status of women back then, Mary is presented to us as having an extremely significant role in God’s plan for all humanity. What we can take from that is that in God’s eyes women and men are fully equal in dignity, a view that contrasts with social systems of that time, and certainly later too. On today’s feast to the Holy Family, the spotlight focuses on the very young Jesus and affirms his importance even as a child.


He is brought to the temple according to the Jewish customs of his day to be presented to God where, according to Luke’s account, he was to be consecrated to God. In the presence of an old woman (even the detail that she was 84 years old is mentioned) named Anna and an older man named Simeon, Jesus is identified as one who will be a light for Gentiles and bring God’s glory to Israel. In other words, Jesus was related to all of us, then and now. Scripture elsewhere calls him “the new Adam.”


So, we have in today’s gospel what might be thought of as an affirmation of the important role that all of us have in God’s plan for humanity. The very young, and those advanced in years, children. women and men all count as equally important and equally valuable to God. We’re all important in this wondrous world of God’s creation where no one is to be considered unimportant or of lesser status than anyone else.


We have all seen in our lives where lack of genuine human equality prevails. It happens both worldwide, and even in the churches, which trace their identity to Jesus Christ. But on this Sunday, I see this underlying affirmation for full equality as especially addressed to families.


That is the setting where all ages and all genders are found, recognized, and hopefully valued. In the family, no individual group should be considered superior to any other. All are equally valued and loved by God.


Although this ideal fails to be achieved all too often, we need not conclude it is impossible to achieve. We can affirm that perfection in this life is often more a goal than an achievement, so we can still attempt to be better. And if we find ourselves guilty of past shortcomings, we can always try to improve. How this goal of fully affirming human equality will differ with each family. It was that way for the Holy Family as it is for our own day.


David M. Thomas, PhD        

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