Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
They can be ridiculously laughable or memorably lovely, or even eerily scary but always touched with a tinge of the mysterious. I speak of our dreams, those concoctions derived from our varied experiences and mixed into a kind of stew by our brains making mini-movies often fit for recall. In his narrative highlighted today, Luke the physician has no interest in a medical analysis of dreams, because he has a story to tell that cannot wait. He does want us to know that dreams can be the instruments of God’s communications with us. His agents are usually angels. One or more of them came to St. Joseph, and he, “that just man”, was attuned to accept them as coming from God. So he obeyed.
Coming so quickly after Christmas Day for this Liturgical calendar year compels us to lift up our eyes momentarily from the Child in the manger to take some precious time looking also at His parents. In this case of Joseph the foster father of Jesus. We are reminded once again of his strength of character; his obvious humility; and his exemplary obedience. All told, St. Joseph is a marvelous model of masculine virtue honed into sanctity. The Holy Spirit, speaking through St. Luke, sees Joseph as the head of the Holy Family, not lording it over them but serving as their caregiver. He protects Mother and Child.
Our complementary Readings today expand on the virtues needed for a healthy Christian family to flourish and grow in love for God, each other, and everyone else.
The cultural context in which this Feast arrives is certainly toxic to good family life. The family as it was known in biblical times has been shifted off its traditional base by forces we know full well. There is no need to be explicit here. All one need do is watch, look and listen. But this feast day, like all others in the Church, is not meant to focus on the negative. Nor is it meant to foster cynical criticism of our own families.
Instead, we have an annual call to put aside for a time the Toy-land reveries that emerge at Christmas and consider the beauty of God’s design for families as seen in this most blest circle of three. The Book of Sirach and Paul’s letter to the Colossians offer specific ways for us to follow God’s blueprint that, while often difficult to live day in and day out, is the best. The need is there from time to time to observe what good or its opposite the man or woman in the mirror brings to family life.
Returning to St. Luke’s “man of the hour,” St. Joseph, here is a touching story offering advice to any and all Catholic parents:
A little boy, frightened by a thunderous lightning storm, called out one dark night, “Daddy, come. I’m scared.” “Son,” the father said, “God loves you and He’ll take care of you. “I know God loves me,” the boy replied, “but right now I want somebody who has skin on.”
It seems to me that the role of the father (and the mother) is to be and demonstrate God, with skin on. God love you and give you and your family His peace.
Reading I: Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14 – True religion involves duties to others, first of all to parents. Honoring them brings several blessings.
Reading II: Colossians 3: 12-21- Paul describes how practice of the Christian family life encompasses many virtues, especially kindness, compassion, and patience.
The Gospel: Luke 2: 41-52 – Luke tells us of the Holy Family’s cautious return to Israel, and how they had to avoid Judea because Herod’s son ruled there. They settled in Galilee. All of this done by Joseph as head of the family at the directions given him in his dreams.