In the readings for this Sunday, Dec. 31, we honor the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They show us, along with our readings, what it means to be a holy family—a small church.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
The readings for this Sunday, Dec. 31, offer a good foundation for families of every kind. There are actually several readings that a parish can choose from for this week’s readings, but here’s a sampling of what you might have heard. From the first reading to the Gospel, we see what God expects of each member of a family, and what it means to be holy. Our relationships change over time, but Godly relationships in a family always bear the same marks–compassion, caring, respect, patience, forgiveness, and most importantly; a deliberate inclusion of God in our families through prayer.
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
Every family is a small church—a mini parish. Today’s celebration of the Holy Family; Jesus, Mary and Joseph, is also a celebration of what we strive to be—holy families. Whatever form our families may take, we can use the Holy Family as a model. The other readings give us some great advice on how to be holy families, too. The first reading, from the Book of Sirach (which is of the genre “wisdom literature”), focuses on an adult child’s responsibility toward his parents. It speaks of respect, patience, and kindness that all children should bring to their parents, and what a gift it is to them particularly in their old age. Children who care for their aging parents “store up riches”, their prayers are heard, and atone for their sins. The reciprocity of care that we have received in our youth is justice—it’s the least we can do for those who gave us everything when we were helpless.
The second reading to the Colossians is directed at the Church, which is also a family. The members are told very much the same thing as the children in the first reading—that they should treat one another with, “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.” We’re told that love and peace should rule our hearts and actions, and that we should lovingly correct one another if anyone should be in error. It deals briefly with “small churches”—the family. Wives and husbands are given instruction toward one another, children are told to mind their parents, and fathers are instructed about how to deal with children.
The Gospel gives us a glimpse of the early family life of Jesus. Right from the beginning his parents take him to the Temple to dedicate him to God—right from the beginning they are worshiping together as a family. Simeon and Anna, prophets who meet them in the Temple, recognize Jesus for who he is and amaze his parents with their adoration of their son. Mary, like all mothers, ponders the things in her heart, and is given a warning that, before everything is done, will have her heart pierced…like all mothers. With their love and guidance, Jesus grows strong and full of wisdom.
What do you love most about your family? Why are they important to you?
Today’s readings are an encouragement for all of our family groups; reminding us to set our priorities straight and to care for one another. What elements of family life illustrated in these readings do I recognize in my family? Which need to be added?
How much is my family like a “little church”? How much is my parish like a family?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
Pick one thing your family can work on as a New Year’s Resolution that will help you to become a more holy family.
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”