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The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (B)

The Word This Week

As an example for us to follow, the Holy Family can seem a little too perfect: when we consider the more “dramatic” events of the Christmas and Easter story, it can seem so far removed from us. And yet, as today'’s Gospel reminds us (especially in the shorter version), there were also the so-called '“hidden years'” - the many years of family life in Nazareth, spent in ordinary things. During that time, we hear how Jesus grew and matured, and in the glimpse of that family life we see our example. The family is a basic unit of our Christian society, despite coming under threat nowadays.  Our celebration of this feast, and the Word of God we proclaim, announces that there is a lasting value in the ideals of family life, and the relationship between husband, wife, parents and children. Whatever the changing details of each age, honour, understanding and love always remain the recipe for the perfect, and holy, human family. It is love that we put on over all the other clothes of changing cultures and places, to guarantee the life of the family in imitation of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Notes for Readers (Year A Readings)

First Reading: Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6.12-14.

Here we have examples of just behaviour - the behaviour that makes a family work. If you look at the reading, you see that at least for the first half, the words “'father”' or “'mother'” appear on almost every line. So here we think about the relationship between children and parents. Throughout this reading, take care to emphasise the things that children should do, and separate this slightly from the blessing that is associated with it. So line 3 could be read thus: “"Whoever respects his father ... is atoning for his sins."” and the same for the other elements of the list. Remember it is a list, and with any list of virtues or things, you need to give the congregation time to assimilate the items on the list. So take your time with this reading, being sure to emphasise the actions that bring blessings. It might be worth a slight change of tone for the last section, addressed directly to the son. A greater gentleness, tinged with understanding of the difficulty of the task, will engage the attention of the listener.


Second Reading: Colossians 3:12-21.

Here we turn to general rules for the whole family to observe (indeed for the whole community to observe). Paul is almost pleading as he writes - this way of living, which he is so convinced by, is worth listening to. You may wish to adopt a similar tone - gathering the attention of the congregation, and almost persuading them of the benefits of life like this (without going over the top, of course.) Be aware again of the list that Paul gives, and insert suitable pauses to help the understanding of the listener. Be careful of the middle paragraph: it is less obvious than the other two, and you could ‘lose’ the attention of the congregation: use the emphatic words (like ‘"richness’, ‘gratitude’, ‘inspired’, ‘never’") to hold this passage with the rest - the direct appeal to the Christian community. A general rule we have mentioned before is that often in these readings you are directly addressing the congregation: notice that the very first word of the reading is “You”. This is a real ‘you’, talking to those sitting in front of you this Sunday morning.