Presenting the Holy Family

Today’s official name is the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

That’s a mouthful, so folks around here generally call it Holy Family Sunday.

We don’t see much of the Holy Family in the Gospels, or anywhere else in the Bible. Luke 2:2240 — The Presentation in the Temple1 — is one of the exceptions.

It’s today’s Gospel reading. The others are Sirach 2:26; and Colossians 3:1221.

There’s a lot to say about all three, but I’ll leave nearly all of that for another day. Just the first two verses from Luke are more than enough for a post:

“When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,
“just as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,'”
(Luke 2:2223)

Sinners and Jesus

Jesus would be rankling the Scribes and Pharisees a few decades later. They accused him of breaking Mosaic law a few times.

I suspect our Lord’s distressing habit of treating “sinners” like people also rankled, adding to their ire.

I’ve talked about the woman caught committing adultery before, and what happened when Jesus reminded the ‘righteous’ folks that their rap sheets weren’t blank.

Reminders that sin can be forgiven still irks pillars of propriety. Sins they haven’t committed, or been caught committing, anyway. And that’s another topic. (April 23, 2017; November 21, 2016; October 23, 2016)

The point of that digression is that Jesus had been following Mosaic law.

No surprises there. Today’s Gospel shows his folks taking him to the temple because the law said they should.

Our Lord also talked about what the law means:

“He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
“This is the greatest and the first commandment.
“The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.'”
(Matthew 22:3840)

Truth and Insomnia

I keep saying this — faith is willingly and consciously embracing “the whole truth that God has revealed.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 142150)

I think following the rules is important.

So is knowing what they mean: why I should read the Bible, go to Mass, and try to act like God and love matter.

At this point I’d generally start talking about the Presentation, Mosaic law, and how the way we understand reality changes as we learn more.

That’s not going to happen this week.

I’ve had maybe one or two close approximations to a full and uninterrupted night’s sleep this month, and it’s catching up with me.

Caught, actually.

I’ve been concentrating more and accomplishing less. More accurately, I’ve been making more typos than usual. Lots more. And tracking down information is taking longer.

Limited Knowledge

I’m not overly-concerned, since I know why I’m not sleeping much. And often not sleeping very long when I do manage to drop off.

Know about it, anyway.

I had an extremely unpleasant experience during the Christmas season when I was 12. I can’t remember it, or a sizable block of time around it, but know what happened.

The ‘down’ side is that decades of major depression and PTSD started then.

The ‘up’ side is that I learned how to stay moderately functional anyway.

That got much easier when my wife told me I should see a psychiatrist. That was about 11 years back. He stopped me before I’d finished listing disagreeable circumstances I’d been dealing with. Let’s face it, I’m a mess. (December 17, 2017; March 19, 2017)

Basically, this post is going to be shorter than most I write. That wouldn’t take much, and that’s yet another topic.

Holy Family, not ’50s Family

All three readings today were written more than a millennium before “Leave it Beaver” first aired. Humans haven’t changed much since then, but our cultures have.

Folks living near the eastern Mediterranean two millennia and more back used different customs and followed different rules.

Their families weren’t organized like suburban American families in the 1950s, or my family in the early 21st century.

The way of life reflected by the fictional Cleavers wasn’t wrong. And I don’t fear that my family is vexing God by not trying to herd sheep or grow figs.

Central Minnesota’s climate accounts for some differences.

But mostly it’s because we keep developing new technology — along with new social and political structures.

Change happens, and that’s a good thing. (June 4, 2017; February 5, 2017)

Living with Change

I’m quite sure that the basic unit of human societies will be the family when New Year’s Day, 4035, dawns.

I’m also certain that families won’t work exactly the way they do now.

That’s okay.

It’s also inevitable.

This universe keeps changing. That’s also okay. Magnificent as it is, it’s part of a much larger reality. And a temporary part, at that.

“The universe is transformation: life is opinion.”
(“Meditations,” Book IV, Marcus Aurelius (c. 161-180 AD))

“There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens.”
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 (c. 5th-2nd century BC))

“Everything changes and nothing stands still.”
(Heraclitus (c. 535 BC-475 BC))

“Raise your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth below; Though the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies, My salvation shall remain forever and my victory shall always be firm.”
(Isaiah 51:6 (c. 700 BC))

I’ve said that before, and most likely will again. (August 4, 2017)

‘The future’ won’t be just like today, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be all that different. Not the basics.

Nostalgia seems to be part of human nature; and harmless as long as we don’t let it get out of hand.

Given what we know of how folks view change today and in days gone by, reactions to what’s happening as 4035 ends will be mixed.

I’m pretty sure that some folks won’t like what’s happened since those wonderful days of yore — in the 4020s. Like the song says, these are the “good old days.” Fond memories of youth are okay. Trying desperately to drag the rest of us back, not so much.

Others will be like me: aware that the present isn’t perfect, and profoundly glad that we can’t go back and learn why we left the “good old days” behind.

I remember when some folks acted as if they’d read Ephesians 5:22, but not Ephesians 5:2130.

Some still do, but they’re not often taken seriously. And they certainly don’t have much influence on American society.

I don’t miss the ‘good old days.’

Recognizing that men aren’t women and women aren’t men is one thing. Imagining that ‘she’s smart as a man’ is a compliment doesn’t make sense. Neither does assuming that girls shouldn’t take shop class.

My father-in-law got an anxious call from the school when one my wife’s sisters was a teen. Replying to ‘do you know that your daughter wants to take shop?’ he said “So? Let her!” These days, it’s my wife and son who have and use the power tools.

I was going somewhere with that. What was it? Holy Family, insomnia, 50s sitcoms. Right.

Men and women have equal dignity. I’m expected to love my wife as Jesus loved the Church. (Catechism, 16011617, 23312336)

There’s more. Much more. But that’s all I have time or wit for today.

I’ve talked about some of it before, more or less:

1 Pope Francis, about the Presentation:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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4 Responses to Presenting the Holy Family

  1. Nostalgia for the past may be a misplaced longing for the eternal. It’s a sort of vision of a perfection rooted in time because we *know* that perfection must exist somewhere but we haven’t yet located it. Mystics are those who *have* it, but not in time. On my blog I wrote-

    “Visionaries in particular retain a nostalgia for the transcendent throughout all their time in the mundane. A part of them did, in fact, fully and finally die to this life when they saw and understood Him for the first time. That part ever longs to return to Him and to be with Him forever”

    • Good point. As you said – ‘in, not of, the world.’ Thanks for that link, and giving me an idea for next week’s post.

      In a sense, I’m ‘nostalgic’ for an era we haven’t built yet. And probably won’t for several millennia.

      I know too much of humanity’s track record to expect that we’ll have an earthly utopia by 4035, or any other year in this universe.

      But we have, occasionally, approached making a society that adequately serves the needs of the individual and common good. They’ve all been flawed efforts – but that’s to be expected, given our circumstances.

      Like I said, I don’t think we’ll ever get that shining Camelot of a future that some folks apparently expected in my early years.

      But I am convinced that we can do better than anything we have now, or have tried in the past. And I think it will be worth the effort – even though we won’t achieve perfection on our own.

  2. irishbrigid says:

    Mangled sentence: “but much that was about our Lord’s distressing habit of treating”

    The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Thanks for taking time to comment!