The reflection below was written by Janice and Gerry Vanderhaar for our Advent-Christmas 1996 reflection booklet, The Word Becomes Human so that We Might Become Fully Alive: Advent and Christmas Season 1996. Janice is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. She helped found and has served on the boards of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, and the Gerard A. Vanderhaar Symposium. Gerry was a founding member of Pax Christi USA, a professor of religion and peace studies at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, and a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. He passed in 2005.
reflection for the FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY, DECEMBER 27, 2020
by Janice and Gerry Vanderhaar
One obeys the God who brings comfort to one’s mother …
kindness to a father will not be forgotten. (Sir 3:6, 14)
Coming on the scene at this moment, Anna gave thanks to God and talked about the child
to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.” (Lk 2:38)
Today’s reading from Sirach contains nothing newly Christian. Its aphorisms are found in wisdom literature around the world: Children, honor your parents; take care of them when they grow old; it’s the right thing to do. Paul adds that wives and husbands should love one another, and that they should not nag their children. Nothing specifically Christian in all this advice; it’s just human. Except it’s all Christian because it’s all human. The human reveals the Word to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
The gospel today tells us of Jesus’s parents going to the Temple in Jerusalem to consecrate their first-born son to God. Mary and Joseph were doing what they understood loving parents should do under Jewish law — bring their baby to be consecrated. Even though he had been conceived in an extraordinary way, had an extraordinary birth, extraordinary visitors, they still followed what they knew to be God’s ordinary voice in their lives.
Anna and Simeon also heard God’s voice in the stillness of their hearts. These holy people had spent a lifetime in anticipation, prayer and fasting. The Word came to them in the form of a baby, Jesus. And they were able to see exactly who he was. They saw the baby, they recognized God-with-us, and they rejoiced. Anna spread the news to any who would listen.
And what is our loving response today? In a time when violence and evil seem to be alert and profitable in their destructive roles, we need to respond by spreading the message of nonviolent love by our words and actions. Our nonviolent love extends beyond family and friends to the most difficult neighbors of all, our enemies. This is our challenge. This is our call.
As Paul reminds us today, Christ’s peace must reign in our hearts, since as members of the one body we have been called to that peace. As we witness in our own lives the nonviolent love of the Word become human, that peace will more and more reign in our hearts, in our family, and in the entire community of life.
What is our loving response today to the birth of God-with-us?