On this feast of the Holy Family the Lectionary invites us to look at the promises God has made.
In the first reading we have the promise God made to Abram, soon to be renamed Abraham, that he would receive decedents as numerous as the stars. Abram is old, his wife is old, they’ve been unable to conceive for all their years, and yet God promises descendants. You can imagine the temptation Abram must have had to be skeptical and to think that this promise wouldn’t or perhaps couldn’t be fulfilled. You can also imagine that he would assume to find the promise fulfilled by having many sons in his old age… three, six, maybe a dozen sons bringing him joy in his final years. But all we really know is that his response was a simple, faithful trust in the promise. His trust is rewarded. He receives just one son with Sarah, his son Isaac… and he recognizes that the promise of God was fulfilled because the promise of God was something far greater than one generation of descendants that Abram himself would see. God’s promise was descendants as numerous as the stars, and so it would be.
In the Gospel, God makes a promise to Simeon, the prophet, that he will not die until he sees the Christ of the Lord, the anointed one. The Israelites have been conquered by Rome, at that time the only superpower of the world, and the Jewish rebels of the Maccabeans did nothing. You can imagine the temptation he must have had as each year passed, and his bones began to ache and muscles faded away, the temptation he must have had to think that God would not fulfill his promise. You can also imagine that he would assume that one day he would see some heroic figure leading and rallying the people of Israel, striking fear into the Roman oppressors. But all we really know is that his response was a simple, faithful trust in the promise. His trust is rewarded. He sees an infant, just a vulnerable, powerless infant… and he recognizes that the promise of God was fulfilled because the promise of God was something far greater than an anointed leader to set the Israelites free in this world. God’s promise was the coming of the Christ, the anointed one, the one who would set Israel free not from the Romans but from slavery and death, and so it would be.
The scripture speaks to us of promises that seems improbable, of a simple trust that God will be faithful, and of promises fulfilled in ways that could not be imagined.
God’s has made a promise to us as well. By the incarnation of His Son, he has promised that we belong to Him. Today we celebrate the Holy Family, and we are God’s Holy People, the brothers and sisters of Christ. God’s promise to us in Jesus is that because we belong to Him, we too can be holy… we too can share in the Holy Spirit and be one Body, one Spirit with Christ. There’s going to be a lot of temptations for us to think otherwise, a lot of times when we believe that we can’t be holy and that God demands too much from us… times when we say to ourselves that we are only human, forgetting that Mary and Joseph and all the saints we indeed, only human. And we might assume that holiness looks a certain way, is boring and rigid and not at all normal. But instead of listening to those temptations and those assumptions, we should heed the examples from scripture and have a simple trust that God does indeed care about us, that God gave the life of His Son for us, and that God will never abandon us. God has promised us something in Christ and in making us His Holy People, and so it will be.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.