WHOLE HOLY FAMILYToddlers seem to need only two words in their vocabulary: “No!” and “Mine!” As soon as they are able they assert themselves forcefully. This is a survival tactic. As the little ones become aware of themselves, their instincts for survival kick in. They grab for whatever they think they need to preserve the precious life they are and to ensure their perceived happiness and well-being. With great patience do parents (and often siblings) teach these little ones that they are not the center of the universe, that the best way to preserve life is to co¬operate with the community of people around them, that what ensures happiness and well-being is loving relationships.
 
In this gospel Mary and Joseph bring their forty-day-old Son to the temple “to present him to the Lord.” Simeon takes the Child “into his arms” and recognizes him to be “a light for revelation” to all people. The prophetess Anna encounters the One whom she recognizes as “the redemption of Jerusalem.” Such lofty words about this tiny Child! The gospel then tells us that the “child grew and became strong.” Can we imagine this Child uttering “No!” and “Mine!”? Cannot we presume that Mary and Joseph exercised the same patience with the toddler Jesus as they taught him how to live as a member of their family? Right relationships in families and other communities don’t just happen. They are taught by example, patience, care, and take a lifetime of openness and growth.
 
This gospel describes three ways to be righteous. Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple “according to the law,” fulfilling their obligation as new parents. Simeon is open to the Holy Spirit’s Presence, guidance, and revelation to him of the “Christ of the Lord.” Anna spoke prophetically to others about the redemption that was at hand. Faithfulness to the law, openness to the Holy Spirit, prophetically speaking about what has been revealed deepen our right relationship with God. Families are holy when they, too, act righteously as did Mary and Joseph, Simeon, and Anna.
 
God so cared for the family of humanity that God gave us the only-begotten Son; we show our acceptance of membership in God’s family by caring for each other, by building just and loving relationships, by growing in righteousness. This process of being holy usually begins with our own family members. This feast calls us to care for one another in practical ways. Perhaps this means phoning an elder who lives alone or is in a retirement center or nursing home. Maybe this means sharing toys more generously on the part of little ones (learning words other than “No!” and “Mine!”), or pitching in to help without being asked on the part of adolescents, or husband and wife listening more intently to each other. Emptying self for the sake of the other is what builds up each of us and our families and relationships, and this is being holy. Righteousness is very concrete. So is holiness.
 
 

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