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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, Dec. 30, 2012

By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

December 30, Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Cycle C. Readings:

1) 1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28

Psalm 84:2-3, 5-6, 9-10

2) 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24

Gospel: Luke 2:41-52

Last September, in the blink of an eye, the thing I thought would never happen suddenly sneaked up on me: I became an "empty nester." I dropped off our youngest child at an out-of-state college and waved goodbye as she, heading for the dining hall with a new group of friends, hardly stopped chattering long enough to return the wave. It was surreal, heartrending and exhilarating, all at the same time.

I suspect that Hannah must have felt even greater distress as she presented Samuel at the temple in Shiloh, fearing that she might not ever see her only son again. (At least our daughter can count on email, cellphones, airplanes and school holidays.) The child for whom Hannah had so earnestly prayed was hers for only a short season of borrowed time while she prepared herself for the inevitable letting go.

When we think "Holy Family," our imaginations probably turn to those idyllic scenes from the holy cards: Joseph and Mary gazing adoringly at the glowing infant Jesus in the manger, or Joseph and Jesus diligently working as a bemused Mary watches from the doorway, water jug in hand. Naturally, our day-to-day family lives suffer mightily by comparison. "What? Our family holy? No way!"

But today's Gospel presents a different scene -- a pre-adolescent Jesus absorbed in discussion with temple elders, seemingly insensitive to his anxious parents who are suffering the first painful pangs of separation even as they marvel at the person their son is becoming. It's the same bittersweet feeling I get every time one of our children comes home for an all-too-brief visit and reveals yet another marvelous facet of emerging adulthood.

John's epistle reminds us that as "children of God" we are becoming more like him in ways yet to be revealed. True sanctity in God's family is not of the static, holy-card variety. Rather, as we advance "in wisdom and age and favor before God and man," growth in holiness is accompanied by soul-stretching change, profound joy and the painful letting go of our egos -- occurring within the context of every human family. Don't blink -- or you might miss it!


Have you had an experience in your family of "letting go" of someone dear to you? In what ways has your own family helped you to grow in holiness?


"Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord." -- 1 Samuel 1:28


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