SUNDAY'S PAGES
Top Planning Resources for Sunday
SUNDAY'S PAGES
Top Planning Resources for Sunday

🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫 WORD TO EUCHARIST 🟫🟫 GOSPEL 🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫

From Word to Eucharist

We walk up the aisle in relative normality. Who among us has eyes to see the special gifts and calling that God intends? Are we afraid to accept it?

READ MORE at Lector Works

Fr. Tony’s Homilies

Overview
1st & 2nd Reading
Gospel Exegesis
Life Messages
Homily Illustrations
Jokes of the Week

Faith Sharing,
Discussion,
Bible Study

Over 50 questions each week from which to pick and choose.

Larry Broding
Fr. Eamon Tobin
Fr. Clement Thibodeau
Vince Contreras

INTROFIRSTPSALMSECONDGOSPELCATENA AUREA

A Hidden Life of Strength, Wisdom, Grace

Holy Family (B)

USCCB BULLETIN INSERT
LPi BULLETIN INSERT

The Holy Family is the model for a Christian family. It was in this simple home that Jesus, our Savior, grew into the man who would save the world. It was in the humble surroundings of his home life that this great man spent most of his life on earth. Keep Reading…

SOURCE: LPi Connect

Getting Started

Liturgical and pastoral resources from National Catholic Reporter’s Celebration
INTRO TO READINGS

Family, Faith and Legacy

by Sr. Mary M. McGlone — 2017

As people grow older and prepare for their transition into the next life which Catholics call eternal life, the notion of “legacy” becomes important. Some people wonder what their legacy will be. Will it be a list of successful accomplishments? Will it be various donations made to charitable organizations or a trust fund or foundation that has been set up to help others in need? Maybe it will be a substantial gift made to the field of medicine or research or education. Perhaps the legacy will be a monetary inheritance left to family members or friends. Whatever the legacy may be, it is a gift meant to assist those in need and to motivate others to remember the generosity and benevolence of the gift-giver.

In 2009 within one month, my father George was diagnosed with and died of lung cancer. A marine engineer by trade and a warm, loving, simple man by heart, he valued family which meant everything to him. His greatest desire throughout his life and in his last days was that my mom, sister, brother, eight nephews, one niece and I would always preserve and live out his great abiding love for family. In my closing words during his eulogy, I looked out at the assembly and said, “Well, here we are, Dad, all gathered together in your honor, filled with great grief yet celebrating the love that you gave to us that binds us together. We are family, Dad, and we are your legacy.”

This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, and the readings* are about just that: family, accented by promise, faith and legacy.

Abram, concerned about an heir, has a heart-to-heart talk with God about his and Sarah’s childlessness. God quells Abram’s anxiety. In addition to having promised Abram land, God now promises him an heir, one who will be his own offspring. Abram and Sarah will have a son. Furthermore, Abram’s descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. What marvelous promises! Abram’s further response is to trust God who views Abram’s decision as an act of righteousness. God fulfills the divine promise; Sarah bears a son whom Abram calls Isaac. As the inheritor of the divine covenant and the promises God made with Abram, Isaac  later becomes Israel’s second great patriarch. Abram now has an heir, and he and Sarah now have not only a family but also a future legacy.

In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul, the so-called author of this book of the Hebrew Scriptures, briefly recounts three Genesis stories about Abraham: Abraham’s call narrative (Genesis 12:1-9); God’s covenant with Abraham and eventual birth of Isaac and later descendants (15:1-6; 16:1-16; 21:1-7); and the binding and near sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham (22:1-19). Paul instructs his audience about the great theological virtue of faith; he uses Abraham as his primary example to showcase this virtue as well as the beneficence of God who is faithful to divine promises made. Paul echoes the theme of Abraham’s descendants being as numerous as the stars in the sky but adds that they will also be as countless as the sands on the seashore. Embedded in Paul’s message is the recognition of Abraham’s descendants as his legacy.

The Gospel reading from Luke 2:22-40 also focuses on family, faith, promises fulfilled and legacy. Joseph and Mary take their young child Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to God in the Temple as was the custom dictated by the law given to Moses. In the Temple, the family meets Simeon who was divinely promised that he would not die until he had seen the Christ of the Lord. With faith in God and God’s promise, Simeon waits. To his delight, he not only meets Jesus but also embraces him; therein, God’s promise to Simeon is fulfilled. In the Temple, the family also encounters Anna, a devout prophetess. Both she and Simeon speak about the child and his future mission, though Anna’s words are not articulated by the Gospel writer. Joseph and Mary’s family legacy will involve having a son who will bring hope and contradiction to a world waiting for salvation and liberation.

In sum, all three readings center on family, faith and legacy. Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna were all righteous people of deep faith. All received divine promises that God fulfilled because they believed. These readings invite us to think about family, to re-evaluate our understanding of legacy, and to believe wholeheartedly in the One whose word and promises are true. Furthermore, Jesus who is a descendant of David, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham will be a blessing for all the families of the earth, thus bringing God’s promise to Abraham to deeper fulfillment (Genesis 12:3; 15:4 and Matthew 1:1).

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.
LITURGICAL PLANNING

Planning: Holy Family (B)

by Lawrence Mick — 2017

For Holy Family, the Lectionary offers multiple options. You may use the readings from Cycle A or the alternate ones for Cycle B. Among those, there are also several long and short forms that may be chosen. While it’s often best to use the long forms, this might be a time to opt for the shorter forms since people will be at worship so often these two weekends. This would also avoid the difficulties with the reading from Colossians, whose long form includes language about wives being submissive to their husbands. (If you use the long form of that reading, the preacher should certainly address what it really means.) Make sure that lectors and musicians (and preachers) know which readings are being used at each Mass. Getting that information out early is more important than usual in light of people’s holiday schedules.

The Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God does not have options for readings (unless your bishops allows use of the Mass for Peace), but you still need to decide which of the themes of the day you will emphasize. It is the octave day of Christmas, the first day of a new year, the World Day of Prayer for Peace, and the oldest Marian feast. You might combine a few of these but not all in one celebration.

Prayers for peace are certainly appropriate in the intercessions; prayers for a blessed new year also fit there. A blessing of calendars could be done at the end of Mass. Such a blessing can be found in Prayers for the Domestic Church by Fr. Ed Hays, or you could adapt the “Prayer for the New Year” in Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, page 85-87 in the second edition. Or just end the Mass with the blessing for the beginning of the year in the Missal.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved.
PRAYERS FOR MASS

Presider’s Introduction

by Joan DeMerchant — 2017

Family life is always a challenge, and our religious ancestors had advice about how to make it work. Though many cultural values were different, we realize how family life was interwoven with faith. We don’t know much about Jesus’ family, but we hear today that they followed traditional Jewish laws. We tend to think of them as so different from our own families; but, like us, they would have struggled to understand what they were being called to. We are more alike than we think.

Penitential Act

by Joan DeMerchant — 2017
  • Lord Jesus, you were raised in a humble Jewish family: Lord, have mercy.
  • Christ Jesus, you were brought to the Temple by Mary and Joseph: Christ, have mercy.
  • Lord Jesus, you show us that all families can seek God’s guidance: Lord, have mercy.

Prayer of the Faithful

by Joan DeMerchant — 2017

Presider: Let us pray now for our own families and for all families.

Minister: For the church: That it may be a wise and compassionate guide for families of every configuration … we pray,

  • For all families throughout the world subject to violence, injustice or lack of resources … we pray
  • For families who try to be loving and faithful in the midst of daily challenges and struggles … we pray
  • For national policies and funding that support families and their needs … we pray
  • For families separated by distance, issues of faith or other beliefs and viewpoints … we pray
  • For children in need of foster care or adoption and those who choose to parent them … we pray
  • For all families in this community, especially those dealing with illness or death … we pray

Presider: God of life, we are all members of families, often struggling and imperfect. Help us to remember that Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived together in faith and love, dependent upon you to sustain them. Show us how to love, accept and be grateful for our own families. Teach us how to forgive family members who have wounded us. Grant us the grace to be the people you call us to be. We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved.
commentary
"The Milky Way – that flood of stars splashed across the inky night sky ... and the galaxy we call home – has been a source of wonder ever since humanity has had the capacity to muse about such things. It has served as a source of inspiration for [Abraham in the Book of Genesis] and enlightenment scientists, modern artists and poets, and everyone in-between. And we’ve squandered it away, made it disappear; we're depriving generations of people from ever knowing its profound beauty. Thanks to our incessant obsession with artificial light, we have ruined the nighttime sky. More than 80 percent of the planet's land areas – and 99 percent of the population of the United States and Europe – “live under skies so blotted with man-made light that the Milky Way has become virtually invisible,” writes National Geographic. – READ MORE from  "The World's 11 Certified Dark Sky Reserves, Where the Stars Run Riot" by Melissa Breyer.  (PHOTO SOURCE: Pexels / Public Domain)

"“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”" — Genesis 15:5

PHOTO CONNECTION
"The Milky Way – that flood of stars splashed across the inky night sky ... and the galaxy we call home – has been a source of wonder ever since humanity has had the capacity to muse about such things. It has served as a source of inspiration for [Abraham in the Book of Genesis] and enlightenment scientists, modern artists and poets, and everyone in-between. And we’ve squandered it away, made it disappear; we're depriving generations of people from ever knowing its profound beauty. Thanks to our incessant obsession with artificial light, we have ruined the nighttime sky. More than 80 percent of the planet's land areas – and 99 percent of the population of the United States and Europe – “live under skies so blotted with man-made light that the Milky Way has become virtually invisible,” writes National Geographic. – READ MORE from  "The World's 11 Certified Dark Sky Reserves, Where the Stars Run Riot" by Melissa Breyer.  (PHOTO SOURCE: Pexels / Public Domain)

First Reading

Holy Family (B)

Sirach 3:2-7, 12-1414 or Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3

Those who fear the Lord honor their parents

  • God appoints parents to care for their children.
  • Whoever honors their parents atones for their sins.
  • Care for parents as they age; be kind and considerate of them.

Option: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14

SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor

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REFLECTIONS

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau

Respect for God requires that we honor our parents

FIRST READING (Sirach)—In the Latin version of the Bible,this Book was named Ecclesiasticus. It is not found in most Protestant editions of the Bible because it has not come to us in the Hebrew canon or collection.It was written by a Greek-speaking scribe and teacher about 200 years before Christ, in a Jewishcommunity,perhaps Alexandria. Its formal title is: “The Wisdom and Teachings of Jesus ben Sirach.” It contains the rules of etiquette and protocol for young men in civil service. They are taught to have right relationships with God, family, neighbors, businesspersons, and close friends. Values promoted areself-discipline, sin and forgiveness, finances, child-rearing, physical fitness, and social manners. Parent-child relationships are the topic of the passage in our Lectionary. The child must treat both mother and father with honor and reverence. To have a right relationship with one’s parents is to have a right relationship with God.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨 FR. TOBIN 🟨🟨 FIRST READING 🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨

Fr. Eamon Tobin

God fulfills his promise

FIRST READING (Genesis) — When God calls Abraham, he promises that he will be the father of a great nation (Gen. 12:1-4). In today’s reading, Abraham is wondering when God is going to fulfill his promise. In the midst of his doubt, God comes and reassures Abraham that he will be faithful to his promise. Then the reading jumps forward six chapters (Ch.21) where we read about God fulfilling his promise to Abraham and Sarah.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone

Through Abram, we see what faith is

FIRST READING (Genesis) — This reading from Genesis forms the heart of the stories about the first generation of the family God has chosen. The opening verse, “The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision saying …” indicates that Abram’s experience of God is an audio-visual dialogue, and the phrase itself, commonly found in the writings of the prophets, situates Abram in the prophetic tradition. God’s initial words to Abram are reassuring and recall Genesis 12:1-3 where God promises to give him land, to make him a great nation, to bless him, to make his name great, to have him be a blessing for those who bless him and a curse for those who curse him, and in him all the families of the earth will be blessed. What wonderful promises Abram receives, but his concern is that those gifts will be useless unless he has an heir to inherit them. In ancient Israelite legal practice, only sons inherit and the eldest son receives a double portion (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). When no sons exist, daughters may inherit, and in the absence of daughters, the closest male relatives inherit (Numbers 27:8-11). Abram has no children, but that does not mean he has no heir. Eliezar, the steward of Abram’s house, could legally be heir to Abram’s property. What is at stake here, however, is Abram’s bloodline. He has no heir to carry on his family name and his life as a whole, and he has no descendant(s) to inherit God’s family-related promises. Thus, without a child, he has no future and no genealogy. For Abram, his and Sarah’s childlessness is an affliction which moves him to give voice to a heartfelt complaint to God.

God’s response to Abram is gracious. God gives Abram another promise: Eliezar will not be Abram’s heir; Abram will have a child of his own as his heir. This child will not only inherit the promise of land but also carry on Abram’s bloodline and family signified by descendants who will be more numerous than the stars Abram can count. Abram’s response is a simple one, he puts his faith in God which God credits to him as an act of righteousness.

Through Abram, we see what faith is. Faith is not blind trust, it is rooted in a dynamic relationship centered in dialogue, honesty and mutual trust. God entrusts Abram with a series of promises, and Abram trusts in God to bring the promises to fulfillment. They both remain faithful to each other. This two-way relationship is the foundation of righteousness and a quality of right relationship.

In the last part of the narrative, we see the long-awaited, much anticipated promise fulfilled. Sarah gives birth to a son, and two people beyond their procreative years now have a family. Abram and Sarah’s son will inherit the covenant God made with Abram, and his descendants — beginning with Isaac and inclusive of Jesus — will be many (Matthew 1:1).

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections, 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

TIPS FOR READERS

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Paul J. Schlachter

Points to consider (Genesis Reading)

  • The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. God is present throughout the events reported here, protecting and encouraging.
  • O Lord God, what good will your gifts be, if I keep on being childless? I hear two separate complaints, and perhaps Abram has made the same prayer night after night. In the congregation today there are couples who would love to have children and are praying for children. Will they make Abram’s prayer their own?
  • Your own issue shall be your heir. Today we may adopt children and make them our legal heirs. At the same time, we wonder whether they will do us proud. Times may have changed, but this anxiety remains the same. We need assurance.
  • Look up at the sky and count the stars; just so shall your descendants be. I want to prolong this nighttime experience and its wonder, with the incredible comparison of a man’s descendants. Is anyone’s faith capable of such expansion?
  • Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age. In a reading filled with faith, the accomplishment forms a kind of anticlimax. I notice that both forebears have had a change of name, since the church has joined two separate passages in today’s reading. It is not a misprint! I will speak the new names proudly.

Key elements

  • Climax: Abram put his faith in the Lord. It is a classic verse that became the major theme of Paul’s Letter to the Romans.
  • Message for our assembly: Are we persistent? Are we willing to wait for God to deliver in God’s own time?
  • I will challenge myself: To bring out the honest concern of an old man for his legacy, and the faith that God requires of him.
SOURCE: Paul J. Schlachter at LectorWorks.org
Greg Warnusz

Intro for listeners

Sirach Reading: Writing less than 200 years before Jesus, Sirach defended Judaism’s wisdom against pressure from dominant Greek ideas. Here he names care for elders as a cultural and spiritual treasure.

Genesis Reading: For a people always on the brink of extinction, Genesis gives a six-chapter story of how their first ancestors, Abraham and Sarah, struggled to create a family. These verses frame those chapters.

Oral interpretation (Sirach)

The Literary/Historical Situation:  Sirach is a very late book (around 180 B.C.E.), when compared with the books of Moses or the prophets. By this time in Israel’s history, the great theological battles about monotheism are over, the kings have come and gone, and the Exile is a distant memory. The prophets have been silent for a long time, and many Jews are living in cities where pagans are the majorities. In these circumstances, writers asked how one should live a good life, what moral and spiritual choices should one make, what behavior is honorable in a religious person?

Respecting and caring for elders is one of those honorable behaviors. The author depicts it as a way to get right with God, too.

Your Proclamation: Proclaim this in a straightforward, imperative way. Pause briefly between the sentences. Pretend you are the author, the sage Jesus ben Sirach. (The modern, though secular, equivalent of the Hebrew sage giving such instruction is any of those self-help guru’s, whose two-hour conferences your PBS station trots out during pledge week. While I don’t mean to compare their messages to Sirach’s, their delivery, exuding so much confidence in their message, is worthy of your imitation.)

Oral interpretation (Genesis)

The Literary/Historical Situation:  With Abram (later called Abraham) in chapter 12 of Genesis, a new biblical history begins. This era is separated from the past (Adam, Eve, Noah, the Tower of Babel) by several generations of proto-patriarchs, each of whom gets but one sentence in Genesis 11.

But with Abraham something new is afoot. Afoot indeed, for Abraham was the first of God’s people to migrate to the future Promised Land. The drama of his becoming a father is as important as the journey and the destination. It takes even God six chapters to fulfill the promise that Abraham would have an heir. Remember, we have this story from the mouths of later generations, who seldom had better than a tenuous grip on their land, their nationhood, their lives and their fertility. Some of us alive today lived through yet another attempt, not at all fanciful, to exterminate Abraham’s heirs. Abraham’s brush with oblivion and extinction, and God’s improbable rescue of him, are never far from the minds of his descendants. So the story of Sarah, Abraham and Isaac is just right for proclamation on a day when the Church meditates on family life. No other family came closer to not even being a family.

Your Proclamation: In the first half of the reading, make Abraham sound desperate. He has been following God’s orders for three chapters now. He’s rich and powerful, but he’s still childless, even though God had promised, at the beginning of Abraham’s journey, to make of him “a great nation.” Abraham wants a son more than anything else he might have from God, and he tells God so forthrightly.

Use a different, firm tone of voice to make God’s response sound definitive: “No! That one [Abraham’s servant] shall not be your heir!”

Change your tone again, to something reassuring, gentle but firm, for God’s statement about the descendants as countless as the stars.

Now you must pause, to signify that you are skipping the six chapters between God’s promise and its fulfillment. It’s going to sound abrupt no matter what, but less so if you pause. The best way to prepare to read these few climactic verses is to read the intervening chapters, Genesis 15 through 20. Then you’ll know all the events that almost prevented this happy ending, and appreciate it all the more.

SOURCE: Greg Warnusz at LectorPrep.org

FOCAL THEMES

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Theology of Work Commentary

No commentary

FIRST READING—No commentary available for SIR 3:2-6, 12-14 or Gn 15:1-6; 21:1-3

SOURCE: © 2014 Theology of Work Project, Inc.; Used with permission. (Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 LIFE RECOVERY COMMENTARY 🟩🟩 FIRST READING 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

Life Recovery Bible

Abraham made righteous before God

15:4-5 Because of the disappointment and frustration of seventy-five childless years, God’s promise of numerous children must have stretched Abram’s faith to the very limit. God’s plan for Abram seemed an impossibility—thousands of descendants from an old man and a barren woman! But God’s promise did actually come about. God’s plans for us may seem beyond belief—even impossible. We may think we are beyond hope. But with God, nothing is impossible!

15:6 This is one of the most important verses in the Old Testament. Abram believed God, and God declared him righteous. In other words, it was Abram’s faith, not his works, that made him righteous before God. For us to continue in recovery, we need to trust God more and trust our works less. We are powerless over the pressures of sin, but God will help us through the toughest temptations if we trust him. He will count us righteous because of our trust in him, not because we are perfect.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

BIBLE STUDY

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Sermon Writer

Abram believed in YAHWEH

Abram believed in YAHWEH

“After these things the word of Yahweh came to Abram in a vision,” (v. 1a). The phrase, “after these things,” connects what follows with the events of chapters 13-14.

“Don’t be afraid, Abram, I am your shield” (v. 1b). People are often fearful upon finding themselves in the presence of the Lord. We are reminded in particular of the angels using these words to reassure Zechariah and Mary and the shepherds (Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10). God or God’s messenger often uses these words to encourage people facing danger (21:17; 26:24; 46:3). God does not pose a danger to Abram, but is instead Abram’s shield. Soldiers use shields to deflect the weapons of their enemies. Abram can surely identify with this “God is my shield” metaphor, having just returned from battle (14:14-16). To use a shield requires skill, but having God as one’s shield places the initiative in God’s capable hands. The outcome depends on God, and therefore is certain.

“your exceedingly great reward” (v. 1c). Rewards are usually given in recognition of commendable behavior, but God doesn’t specify here which of Abram’s behaviors he is rewarding. Earlier Abram obeyed the command to leave his country and his kindred and his father’s house (12:1) and God promised to make of him a great nation and to bless him (12:2-3). Most recently, Abram declined to take goods from the king of sinful Sodom, saying, “I have lifted up my hand to Yahweh, God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread nor a sandal strap nor anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’” (14:22-23). Most likely, God is rewarding both of these behaviors.

“Lord Yahweh, what will you give me, since I go childless” (v. 2a). No reward can have any meaning for Abram in the absence of a legitimate heir—someone to inherit his wealth and to carry on his name. Abram is already wealthy (13:2), so additional wealth won’t change his lifestyle. What he needs is not more sheep or land, but an heir.

What is remarkable here is Abram’s willingness to question (or challenge) God at the very moment that God is offering to reward him. Abram’s question shows that his childless condition is very much on his mind. It also shows that he is comfortable enough in the presence of God to raise this question.

“and he who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” (v. 2b). This has provoked a great deal of scholarly debate. First, there are questions of translation that go beyond the scope of this exegesis (see Hamilton, 420-422; Wenham, 328). Second, we know nothing of Eliezer other than this and the following verse. Third, we are not sure about the custom that would result in Eliezer being Abram’s heir. From extra-Biblical sources, we know that the Nuzi tribe from Mesopotamia allowed a childless couple to adopt a slave who would then become responsible for assuming the responsibilities of a son—caring for the couple in their old age, seeing to their proper burial, and mourning them following their death. The adopted slave would then assume the right of inheritance (Hamilton, 420; Wenham, 329). We have no reason to believe that Abram has adopted Eliezer, but he has obviously considered it as a last resort.

“Behold, to me you have given no seed: and, behold, one born in my house is my heir.” (v. 3). This is where we learn that Eliezer is Abram’s slave and was born in his house. God has promised to make of Abram a great nation (12:2), but has failed even to give him a son. There is a great distance between God’s promise and Abram’s reality.

“This man will not be your heir, but he who will come out of your own body will be your heir” (v. 4). God reassures Abram that he will, indeed, have a son who will become his heir. At this point, God could fulfill this promise by having Abram father a child by someone other than Sarai. Not until 17:16 does God specify that the mother of the child will be Sarah.

“Yahweh brought him outside, and said, ‘Look now toward the sky, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ He said to Abram, ‘So shall your seed be’” (v. 5). Earlier God promised, “I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth” (13:16). Now he promises to make Abram’s descendants like the stars of the sky.

Both metaphors (dust and stars) suggest numbers beyond comprehension—beyond human counting. A shepherd accustomed to walking unpaved pathways with a flock of sheep would be intimately acquainted with dust—with its pervasiveness and endless quantity. He would also be accustomed to seeing stars on very dark nights. There would be no light pollution to spoil his vision of an otherwise perfectly dark sky lighted by millions of tiny points of light.

Stars are a more attractive metaphor than dust—we don’t like dust, but we do like stars. Also stars have a permanence that dust doesn’t enjoy. Dust gets kicked around and blown about so that you can never tell where a particular grain of dust will be tomorrow. The stars, on the other hand, are immanently steadfast. An astronomer can predict with great accuracy exactly where a given star will be at any given time.

“And he believed the Yahweh” (v. 6a). This is a key moment in the text—in the Bible—in human history. Abram decides to trust the promise rather than the evidence. God has been faithful to him in many ways, so he believes that God will be faithful to him in this way as well.

Verses 1-3 and 4-6 have a similar structure. “In each there is a promise and a response. The promises are the same in substance. But the two responses are very different” (Brueggemann, 144).

In the next chapter, Abram will seem to waver. At Sarai’s behest, he will go in with Hagar and she will conceive and bear a child (16:4). It will seem that Abram has decided to take the initiative—to force the issue—to remove the matter from God’s hands. However, we must remember that God has not yet told Abraham that Sarai will be the mother of his child. When Sarai insists that Abram have a child with Hagar, he might believe that she has discovered God’s plan. At Ishmael’s birth he will be eighty-six years old (16:15), and it will have been many years since God first began making promises. Best to get on with it! Of course, as it turns out, it isn’t best at all. Ishmael isn’t God’s plan. He will turn out to be “like a wild donkey among men. His hand will be against every man” (16:12). Hagar will regard Sarai with contempt, and Sarai will force Hagar to leave (16:6). It will be thirteen years before God brings up the subject again (17:1).

“and he reckoned (hasab) it to him for righteousness” (sedaqa) (v. 6b). Hasab “means ‘to assign…value; in this case the Lord assigns Abram’s faith the value of righteousness” (Mathews, 167). It is as if a beneficent creditor has decided to wipe the debtor’s slate clean—a matter of pure grace.

In the Old Testament, righteousness (sedaqa) is something most often achieved by compliance with Jewish law. However, God has not yet transmitted the law to Moses, so there is no law for Abram to observe. Yahweh is reckoning Abram as righteous, even though there are not yet any standards by which Abram’s conduct could be judged as righteous.

The New Testament spells out the implications of Abram’s belief:

• “By faith (Abram) received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11; see also Hebrews 11:8-22).

• Just as Abram received righteousness as a gift, so also we “being justified freely by (God’s) grace” (Romans 3:24). Paul says,

“For what does the Scripture say?
‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’
Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace,
but as something owed.
But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly,
his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:3-5).

Paul goes on to note that God did this reckoning before Abram was circumcised.

“He received the sign of circumcision…
that he might be the father of all those who believe,
though they might be in uncircumcision,
that righteousness might also be accounted to them.

He is the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision,
but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham,
which he had in uncircumcision” (Romans 4:11-12; see also 4:13—5:11).

• Paul also says:

“We, being Jews by nature, and not Gentile sinners,
yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law
but through faith in Jesus Christ,
even we believed in Christ Jesus,
that we might be justified by faith in Christ,
and not by the works of the law,
because no flesh will be justified by the works of the law…..

For I, through the law, died to the law, that I might live to God.
I have been crucified with Christ,
and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me.

That life which I now live in the flesh,
I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me,
and gave himself up for me. I don’t make void the grace of God.

For if righteousness is through the law,
then Christ died for nothing” (Galatians 2:15-16, 19-21).

SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
Exegesis Outline

First Reading Exegesis

Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

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Agape Bible Study

The duty of a child toward parents

The First Reading reminds us of the fourth of the Ten Commandments: Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you.  Significantly, it is the only one of the Ten Commandments associated with a promised blessing for obedience.  In our reading, the inspired writer establishes the theme of this passage when he equates “fear of the LORD [Yahweh]” with respect for one’s parents.  He tells us that our signs of honor and respect toward our parents are promised blessings beyond a good life.  So important is one’s conduct towards one’s parents that God promises He will always hear the prayers of an obedient and caring child, and acts of kindness towards one’s parents will atone for sins.

First three of the Ten Commandments

The first three of the Ten Commandments instruct us in the conduct of our relationship with God.  The last seven commandments characterize our relationship with our “neighbor/fellow man-woman,” the foremost of which is our conduct toward our parents (Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16).  The inspired writer reminds us of this in the fourth of the Ten Commandments: Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you in verse 6Significantly, it is the only one of the Ten Commandments associated with a promised blessing for obedience, and that blessing is a long life.  In our passage, the inspired writer establishes the theme of this passage when he equates “fear of the LORD” with respect for one’s parents (6b).  He tells us that our signs of honor and respect toward our parents are promised blessings beyond a good life.  So important is one’s conduct towards one’s parents that God promises He will always hear the prayers of an obedient and caring child, and acts of kindness towards one’s parents will atone for sins (verses 3 and 14).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Duty to honor one's parents
Jesus spoke of the duty to honor one’s parents and being grateful to them in Mark 7:10-13a when He condemned the actions of the scribes and Pharisees, saying: “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Whoever curses father or mother shall die.’  Yet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘ (meaning dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God ….” Notice that the fourth commandment and Jesus’ statement do not demand that we love our parents.  God knew there would be bad parents who would fail to image His relationship as a divine, loving Father.  However, having a bad parent does not negate the command to behave in a caring and respectful manner to one’s parents who, in cooperation with God, gave us life.  Jesus’ statement in Mark 7:10-13 supports our passage in Sirach in that one who truly shows reverence to God will respect and care for his parents because it is a standard of behavior that God asks of those who love Him.
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
commentary
"Refugees: La Sagrada Familia" by Kelly Latimore (Iconographer) RELATED PRAYER: A Prayer of the Holy Family - Download the prayer card with painting (PDF)

"Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants around your table." — Psalm 128:3

PHOTO CONNECTION
"Refugees: La Sagrada Familia" by Kelly Latimore (Iconographer) RELATED PRAYER: A Prayer of the Holy Family - Download the prayer card with painting (PDF)

Responsorial Psalm

Holy Family (B)

Psalm 12:1-5 or Psalm 105:1-6, 8-9

The Lord remembers his covenant for ever

Psalm 105 – The author is full of gratitude to God for his faithfulness to his covenant with the descendants of Abraham.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

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FOCAL THEMES

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Life Recovery Bible

God always keeps his word

Psalm 105:5-15 God always keeps his word. He fulfills all his promises. God promised Abraham and Jacob that their descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. Generations after Jacob’s death, the Israelites entered Canaan. Sometimes God’s promises take time to be fulfilled. In recovery we often grow impatient with our slow progress. At times we may think the entire process is hopeless and be tempted to give up. We need to realize that recovery takes time, but this does not mean God is not working on our behalf. We should also remember that the benefits of our efforts in recovery will touch not only our own life but also the lives of our descendants. Let us embrace God’s recovery promises for the long haul.

SOURCE: Content taken from Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition. Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

BIBLE STUDY

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Agape Bible Study

The happy home of the just

Psalm 128 – The Responsorial Psalm admonishes us to “fear the LORD [Yahweh] and to walk in his ways,” meaning to revere God and demonstrate obedience to His commands.  Reverent fear of offending God is a spiritual healthy condition.  It assures that one who fears God will avoid the causes of sin and will cherish fellowship with the Lord.  We have God’s promise that He will faithfully bless those who approach Him in worshipful reverence with a happy home life, prosperity, and children.  God’s blessing is also for all the reverent “children” of the faith community, which Scripture calls “the household of God,” our heavenly Father (Gal 6:10; Eph 2:19).

Fear the LORD and to walk in his ways

A repeated refrain in the Old Testament is the admonition to “fear the LORD and to walk in his ways,” meaning to revere God and to be obedient to His commands.  Reverent fear of offending God is a spiritual healthy condition.  It assures that one will avoid the causes of sin, and one’s right fellowship with God will be carefully cherished.  In this psalm, we have the promise that God will faithfully bless those who demonstrate their reverence toward Him and obedience to His commands (verse 1).  His blessing includes a happy home life, prosperity, a fertile spouse, and abundant children (verses 2-4).  The last verse extends God’s blessing of the reverent to all people of the faith community, which is the “household of God” our heavenly Father (Gal 6:10; Eph 2:19).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
commentary
Detail of Abraham from Adi Holzer Werksverzeichnis' hand-colored etching of "The Sacrifice of Isaac" (1997) - View entire etching  (SOURCE: Wikimedia)

"By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son, of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.” He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.' — Hebrews 11:17-19

PHOTO CONNECTION
Detail of Abraham from Adi Holzer Werksverzeichnis' hand-colored etching of "The Sacrifice of Isaac" (1997) - View entire etching  (SOURCE: Wikimedia)

Second Reading

Holy Family (B)

Colossians 3:12-21 or Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19

Family life in the Lord

  • Live with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
  • Forgive one another.
  • Live with gratitude and peace in your heart.

OPTION: Colossians 3:12-21

SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor

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REFLECTIONS

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau

Christian life asks that we respect one another

SECOND READING (Colossians) — Colossians deals with the practical consequences of the Christian life. Are we or are we nottransformed into Christ by our baptism? Have we not changed our clothes: Taking off the garments of our former ways of living and putting on the radiant garments of salvation? Why should we hang onto death? We are alive in the Risen Christ.Our peace and reconciliation with God needto be shown by our harmony with other people. In contrast to the custom of their neighbors,early Christian familiespracticed a tender and sacrificial love between husband and wife; children respect their parents and parents encourage their children. It was not so among the pagans..

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Fr. Eamon Tobin

God calls Abraham to sacrifice his son

SECOND READING (Hebrews) — Abraham is held up as a man of outstanding faith, ready for adventure. God’s call to Abraham means he has to leave family, home and business—and he does. It means he has to let go of the known and face the unknown—and he does.

The faith of Abraham’s wife, Sarah, is alsopraised. Both she and her husband believe in what is humanly impossible: that they will conceive a child in their old age.

Verses 17-19 speak of Abraham’s biggest test: God calls him to sacrifice his son. The story exhorts us to be ready to sacrifice what is dearest to us out of loyalty to God. It has been said that when Abraham was going up the hill, Isaac belonged to him. But after he showed his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac belonged to God.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone

Is our faith as strong and deep as Abraham’s?

SECOND READING (Hebrews) — In this reading from Hebrews, Paul, the alleged author of the letter, uses Abraham as a model to instruct his listeners on the virtue of faith. To stress his point, he cleverly uses the literary technique called “cataloguing”: the phrase “by faith” begins each of Paul’s examples of Abraham’s faith, beginning with Abraham’s call story, followed by a brief reflection on how Abraham fathered descendants, and concluding with a comment on the near-sacrifice of Isaac. Through this passage, we see that faith has a motivating and guiding role in Abraham’s life and, by extension, for the lives of all believers.

Because of his faith, Abraham is able to trust in God, and faith is the agent that will bring him to his destination. Because of his great faith in God, he is willing to set out with Sarah, his brother’s son, Lot, and their extended family to go to where he had never been before. Abraham’s life is turned upside down but because of his trust and his “Yes” to God, he changes the course of history for him, for Sarah and his future descendants. God’s people as sojourners begins with Abraham, and the journeying continues today, whether our journey is a physical one or a spiritual one. As sojourners like Abraham, we are called to journey with God into unfamiliar territory. Though not mentioned, Sarah, too, trusted in her spouse and in his experience of their God. To be noted, Abraham’s obedience involved no dialogue or discernment with God. Later call narratives show a growth in the tradition in this regard (e.g., Exodus 3:1-12; Isaiah 6:1-13; Jeremiah 1:4-10).

Paul continues to point out to his listeners that because of his faith, Abraham was able to trust in God’s word and promise that he and Sarah would have a child of their own, an heir to the covenant, with descendants to follow. To express the fullness of the promise, the biblical writer uses the principle of intertextuality. For example, the phrase “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky” draws on the original Genesis narrative of the promise made to Abraham, but the author enhances the message by adding a further metaphor, “as countless as the sands on the seashore,” an image used in other Hebrew Scripture texts (e.g. Judges 7:12; 1 Samuel 13:5; 1 Kings 4:20). The fact that in their old age, Abraham and Sarah lived to experience the partial fulfillment of God’s promise to them, namely, the birth of Isaac who would later produce descendants, is a testimony of God’s faith in the couple and a sign of God’s fidelity to them. Thus, faith is a mutual experience between human beings and the sacred Presence also known as God.

Paul’s last comment about Abraham’s faith involves the near-sacrifice of Abraham’s son Isaac. This part of the Hebrews text deserves several comments. First, the notion of being “put to the test” is an allusion to the narrator’s comment on the Genesis story (22:1) which Paul incorporates into his address. Second, Isaac is not Abraham’s only son. With Hagar, Abraham first fathers Ishmael. From Ishmael comes forth many descendants who are Abraham’s “family” but not heirs to the Abrahamic covenant per se. Finally, the fact that Abraham is ready to sacrifice Isaac is a further testimony to his faith in God: Abraham is willing to sacrifice the promise not only of an heir but also of descendants. He is willing to let go of everything promised. Such faith is magnanimous. The entire passage begs the question: “Is our faith as strong and deep as Abraham’s faith?”

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

TIPS FOR READERS

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Paul J. Schlachter

Points to consider (Hebrews Reading)

  • By faith… It is repeated three times. The entire chapter, from which three selections were taken for our reading today, tells of the faith of Abraham and other stalwarts of Israel.  If the letter is a homily on the entire scriptures, this section would form a homily on Abraham’s faith. By faith Abraham obeyed.
  • He went out, not knowing where he was to go. Here is the first episode, in which he left his father’s house to settle in wider spaces. This first decision was perhaps the easiest to make, and I will make less of it.
  • He received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age. This was the most difficult act, insofar as he defied physical limitations. It deserves to be read with some surprise and admiration for the one who had made the promise. If I don’t read these cumbersome phrases carefully, my listeners may not realize that we’re looking at the act of having children and heirs.
  • He who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son. The act in itself was easy, but the decision must have been heart-rending. I will read in a bit of disbelief but mainly in sorrow. Too many parents have indeed lost their children to satisfy bloodthirsty gods in our own time. The author of Hebrews can justify Abraham’s resolve only through a belief in resurrection: God was able to raise even from the dead. (The argument is anachronistic by two millennia, of course, but perhaps the first listeners didn’t know this.)

Key elements

  • The message for our assembly: We should not be ashamed to base our most important family decisions on our faith.
  • Central theme: Scripture can be understood only in terms of a people’s faith, that sometimes makes them do incredible things.
  • I will challenge myself: To breathe humanity into this figure, so remote in time but so close to his Jewish descendants.
SOURCE: Paul J. Schlachter at LectorWorks.org
Greg Warnusz

Introduction for listeners

Colossians: Earlier chapters of this letter explain how baptism makes Christians into a new creation in Christ. This chapter explains how the recreated person should now live.

Hebrews: Many Jews who became Christians both suffered for their conversion and missed the comforts of their ancestral religion. The long letter to Hebrews aims to convince them to trust God, because the new way gives them more than they gave up. This passage appeals to their memory of Sarah and Abraham, who, walking only by faith, gave up much and believed God’s promises.

Oral Interpretation (Colossians)

Historical Situation: Prior chapters of Colossians have explained how the Christian is made a new creation by baptism into Christ. The letter winds up, as Paul’s letters often do, with ethical exhortations. He’s saying, in effect, “Because you’re recreated, here’s how you should now behave.”

Proclaiming It: Read this quietly a few times and imagine how nice it would be to live among people who try to live this way (maybe you already do). Think gratefully about the compassionate, forgiving people you do know. Steep your soul in that gratitude for a few minutes. When you go to the lectern to proclaim this passage, remember those feelings. You want your listeners to say “I’m in!” when they hear your description of the healthy Christian community, so you have to sound like you want in, too.

Oral Interpretation (Hebrews Reading)

Historical Situation: The recipients of this letter were Jews (thus “Hebrews”) who had accepted Jesus as the fulfillment of their people’s ancient hopes. But the majority of Jews rejected these converts. The purpose of the letter is to help the Hebrews bear this and to bolster their new faith. So the first several chapters explain how Jesus, and our relationship with him, take the place of Judaism’s sanctuary, sacrifices and priesthood. (Over the three years of the Lectionary’s cycle, Hebrews is the source of the second reading over a dozen times. Lector’s Notes have treated the purpose and argumentation of the letter often. See links to them all here (click on the letter “H” in the top navigation frame).

Today’s passage comes from a section of the letter where the author appeals to the example of great heroes of faith known to the Hebrews. Foremost is Abraham, of whom we also heard in today’s first reading. Abraham is praised first for having the faith required to migrate (“to go out to a place that he was to receive …”). The author goes on to say that by faith did Abraham become a father astonishingly late in life. Thirdly, you’ll remember that God tested Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac, then stopped the sacrifice so that Isaac survived.

Liturgical Setting:  So what’s this passage doing in our Lectionary on the feast of the Holy Family, within a few days of Christmas? Isn’t it a bit heavy? Are the editors of the Lectionary playing Scrooge to our Tiny Tim? Well, not entirely. There is a kinder, gentler alternative reading; see below. But more importantly, Abraham’s story give us an opportunity to enlarge our notion of family and of holiness. Abraham’s story was never merely about the nuclear family to which many moderns in the west are so devoted. Abraham’s saga is about a nation, a people, or, we might say, a proto-church that goes beyond kinship, that acknowledges one Father, and sees all humankind as sisters and brothers.

Proclaiming It: The lector who accepts the above will want to emphasize the reward of Abraham’s faith, “descendants as numerous as the stars … countless as the sands …” Say that phrase slowly, with awe in your voice.

In any case, pause before each instance of “by faith,” in the hope that your hearers will capture the three-part praise of Abraham’s faith.

Theological Reflection: Should the preacher in your congregation take this tack, using Abraham as exemplar of the call to embrace a more universal family, praise him or her. That preacher sees the church as more evangelizing than assimilating, which is most courageous and praiseworthy. On the other hand, if you hear a preacher making something else worthy of this reading, or find it in another source, please let me know about it. I admit I could have missed something else quite important here.

SOURCE: Greg Warnusz at LectorPrep.org

FOCAL THEMES

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Theology of Work Commentary

Heavenly living for earthly good

SECOND READING— An encouraging word comes from Paul’s exhortation to “put up with one another” (Col. 3:13, as it may be translated). Most translations read “bear with one another,” but this does not fully capture Paul’s point. He seems to be saying that there are all kinds of people in the church (and we can readily apply this to the workplace as well) with whom we won’t naturally get along. Our interests and personalities are so different there can be no instinctive bonding. But we put up with them anyway. We seek their good, we forgive their sins, and we endure their irritating idiosyncrasies. Many of the character traits Paul extols in his letters can be summarized in the phrase “He/she works well with others.” Paul himself mentions co-workers Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus, Mark, Justus, Epaphras, Luke, Demas, Nympha, and Archippus (Col. 4: 7–17). Being a “team player” is not simply a résumé-enhancing cliché. It is a foundational Christian virtue. Both putting to death the old and put­ting on the new are immensely relevant to daily work. Christians are meant to show the new life of Christ in the midst of a dying world, and the workplace is perhaps the main forum where that type of display can take place.

  • Christians may be tempted, for example, to fit in at work by participating in the gossip and the complaining that permeates many workplaces. It is likely that every workplace has people whose on- and off-hours actions make for juicy stories. It is not lying, is it, to repeat the stories?
  • It is likely that every workplace has unfair policies, bad bosses, nonfunctional processes, and poor channels of communication. It is not slander, is it, to complain about those grievances?

Paul’s exhortation is to live differently even in fallen workplaces. Putting to death the earthly nature and putting on Christ means directly confronting people who have wronged us, instead of gossiping about them behind their backs (Matt. 18:15–17). It means working to correct inequities in the workplace and forgiving those that do occur.

Someone may ask, “Don’t Christians run the risk of being rejected as cheerless, ‘holier-than-thou’ types if they don’t speak the way others do?” This could be the case if such Christians disengage from others in an effort to show that they are better than other people. Co-workers will sniff that out in a second. But if, instead, Christians are genuinely cloth­ing themselves with Christ, the vast majority of people will be happy to have them around. Some may even secretly or openly appreciate the fact that someone they know is at least trying to live a life of “compassion, kindness, humility and patience” (Col. 3:12). In the same way, Christian workers who refuse to employ deception (whether by rejecting mislead­ing advertising copy or balking at glorified Ponzi schemes) may find themselves making some enemies as the price of their honesty. But it also is possible that some co-workers will develop a new openness to Jesus’ way when the Securities and Exchange Commission knocks on the office door.

SOURCE: © 2014 Theology of Work Project, Inc.; Used with permission. (Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.)
Life Recovery Bible

Maintaining relationships with other people

Colossians 3:12-13 Paul urges us to maintain our relationships with other people. Our addiction has probably destroyed or severely strained all our important relationships, and we have a lot of work to do on this front. We need to make amends where necessary, seek forgiveness from those we have hurt, and forgive those who have hurt us. Obviously, there are some situations where we cannot, or should not, directly involve the people we have harmed. In such cases Paul urges caution, telling us to be gentle and not to hold grudges. As we seek to make amends, our actions are to be governed by the principle of selfless love.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

BIBLE STUDY

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Sermon Writer

Instructions for families

Instructions for families

18 Wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and don’t be bitter against them. 20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, don’t provoke your children, so that they won’t be discouraged.

These verses give four short rules to govern family life. They include rules for wives, husbands, children, and fathers—but, oddly enough, not mothers. Perhaps that is because mothers tend to be closer emotionally to their children than fathers—as well as more supportive and less judgmental.

Verses 22-25 call slaves to obey their masters and to render good service, and 4:1 calls masters to treat slaves justly and fairly.

The Common Lectionary doesn’t include these verses—almost surely because our popular culture finds verse 18 offensive. I was pleased to see that the Catholic Lectionary includes these verses, because the family is the core building block of society, and families are under assault these days. These verses provide short rules that have the potential to solve many of the problems found in modern families.

“Wives, be in subjection to (Greek: hupotasso) your husbands, as is fitting (Greek: aneko) in the Lord” (v. 18.). This rule is in keeping with other New Testament verses (Ephesians 5:21-24; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:34-35).

The word hupotasso combines the words hupo (under or beneath) and tasso (to place or set). While this verse calls wives to be subject to their husbands, Christians are also called to be subject to one another “in the fear of Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). The middle voice of hupotasso indicates that the submission is something that the woman is to assume voluntarily rather than having her husband’s authority imposed upon her.

The subjection of wives to husbands does not indicate that they are inferior. Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

In sexual matters, Paul calls for mutuality: “Let the husband render to his wife the affection owed her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body, but the husband. Likewise also the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but the wife” (1 Corinthians 7:3-4).

It is worth noting that the New Testament mentions several women who were either heads of their households or in leadership roles: Lydia (Acts 16:15), Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11, and Nympha (Colossians 4:15).

Wives are to subject themselves to their husbands “as is fitting (aneko) in the Lord” (v. 18b). The Greek word aneko means that which is fitting and proper. James adds “in the Lord,” indicating that this is fitting and proper for wives who are “in the Lord”—Christians.

While I didn’t find this in the commentaries, it occurs to me that “as is fitting in the Lord” might exempt the wife from subjection if she were married to a man whose character would make subjection not fitting—i.e., if he happened to be an abusive husband or a drug addict or a criminal. Unfortunately, there are a number of men—some married—who are unfit for any kind of leadership or decision-making.

“Husbands, love (Greek: agapao) your wives” (v. 19a). The verb James uses here (agapao—the verb form of the more familiar noun agape) is one of four Greek words for love (the others being philos, storge, and eros). Only agapao/agape and phileo/philos are used in the New Testament—andagapao/agape occur five times as often as phileo/philos.

The classic distinction between agape and philos is that agape has to do with a concern for the well-being of the other person while philos has to do with brotherly love—friendship love—companionate love—the kind of love where a person receives as well as gives. While there is some question about the sharpness of that distinction, scholars tend to agree that “philos does contain an element of mutuality not found in agape” (Melick). In other words, philos has to do both with giving and getting, while agape has to do only with giving—with an unalloyed concern for the welfare of the other person.

Agape love is more a “doing” than a “feeling” word. It doesn’t require that we approve of the actions of the person whom we love—or even that we enjoy their company. It does require us to act in behalf of that person—to demonstrate our love in some practical fashion. An agape person will do what is possible to feed the hungry—and to give drink to the thirsty—and to welcome the stranger—and to clothe the naked—and to visit the sick and the person in prison (Matthew 25:31-46). The agape person has little or nothing to gain by helping these hungry, thirsty, strange, naked, imprisoned people. The thrust of his/heragape love is giving, not getting.

Love is the first of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)—and is the greatest of Christian virtues (1 Corinthians 13:13).

When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus said: “The greatest is, ‘Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. The second is like this, ‘You shall love (agapao) your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31).

In other words, a husband who loves his wife with agape love will make it a priority to do what he can to meet her needs and to protect her. He will do that through thick and thin—through good times and bad—when he feels like it and when he doesn’t.

“and don’t be bitter (Greek: pikraino) against them” (v. 19b). The word pikraino was often used to speak of bitter or poisonous food or drink. The book of Revelation talks about people who died after drinking water that had been made pikraino (Revelation 8:11).

That makes pikraino a fitting word to describe the kinds of bitter and poisoned relationships that sometimes occur within marriages. We have all seen divorces where the husband and wife go down slashing at each other—so that both (as well as their children) are injured spiritually, emotionally, socially, and financially. My wife and I recently became aware of friends who had averted that kind of disaster, because a pastor recommended a Christian counselor who was able to help them to re-establish communication. What a blessing!

Every husband and wife has faults and irritating habits. Sometimes they persist in irritating behaviors even after the spouse’s best efforts to confront them. Sometimes we experience those behaviors as if they were the drip, drip, drip of Chinese water torture. Financial pressures and other adversities often add to the problem. In fact money problems are often the corrosive acid that can cause a marriage to collapse. The pressures associated with taking care of small children can also add to the stress.

The antidote to this kind of situation can be many faceted. It is helpful to acknowledge that you as well as your spouse have irritating habits that contribute to the problem—and that you as well as your spouse need to be forgiven. Pray that God will help you to forgive your spouse. Ask God to drain the poison from your heart and replace it with genuine love for your spouse. Ask God to help your spouse to forgive you. Stop trying to change your spouse (you can’t change another person), and concentrate on changing yourself. Take steps to re-establish communication. There are various ways to accomplish this. One is to ask your spouse to devote a particular time to sitting and talking. One is to seek counseling with a pastor or a marriage counselor.

“Children, obey your parents in all things, for this pleases the Lord” (v. 20). In most cultures, children are prized. In agrarian cultures, they were especially prized, and people thought of children as a divine blessing (Genesis 15:1-5; Psalm 127:3-6). To be deprived of children was painful (1 Samuel 1-2). People needed children to help with the many chores associated with rural life. They needed children to provide for them in their old age. And they needed children to carry on the family name. Nothing that God could have done for these women would have been received as a greater blessing than the gift of children.

Obeying parents was a significant value. Jewish Law prescribed draconian measures for stubborn and rebellious sons—sons who were full grown or nearly so. They were to be regarded as an evil to be purged from the community (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

But Jesus’ approach to small children was welcoming and accepting (Mark 9:36-37; 10:13-16).

“Fathers, don’t provoke (Greek: erethizo) your children, so that they won’t be discouraged” (v. 21; see also Ephesians 6:4). The word erethizo means to irritate or to provoke to anger.

There are a number of ways that parents can drive their children a bit crazy—and very angry. Some of the possibilities are as follows:

• Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. I don’t think I have to explain that.

• Inconsistent or unfair discipline. Some parents store up grievances against their children, making no timely corrections along the way, and then they explode in anger. That is totally ineffective parenting. Likewise, treating one child better than the others—or punishing a child too harshly—or punishing a child before knowing the facts—each of these has the potential to provoke children to anger.

• Offering lots of criticism and not much praise. A number of years ago, I attended a presentation by Ken Blanchard, an expert on leadership and management. He emphasized that we should look for things to praise, and suggested that we try to maintain a ratio of ten praises for each criticism. His remarks were intended for a business setting, but are applicable to the family as well. Praise builds up and criticism tears down. This is something that fathers tend not to do well. Listen carefully, fathers!

• Being largely absent in the child’s life. I admire Billy Graham a great deal, but his son, Franklin, tells about the negative effects that he experienced because, as he was growing up, Billy was usually in some other part of the world conducting an evangelistic meeting. Franklin talked about the lonely feeling of seeing the tail lights of an Oldsmobile that was spiriting his father away.

• Failure to offer affection. I attended a prayer breakfast in a military setting where Bill Glass, a former NFL football player, told Army NCO’s and officers how important it was for them to hug their children. He said that his own son was bigger than he was—and Bill was a big man—but his son still needed his father’s hugs. The men in that audience listened raptly. Later, I learned that a General went home and told his daughter for the first time that he loved her and was proud of her. The daughter was in tears. A brigade commander (Colonel) with a reputation for an acid tongue changed overnight. Where he had previously been known for criticizing and humiliating subordinates, he became known for praising people for jobs well-done. That transformed his brigade—and lots of people’s lives.

• Scripting children for failure. As of this writing (2013), Bill Glass has a large prison ministry. When he asks prisoners, “How many of your old men (fathers) told you that you were a loser?” almost every hand goes up. When he asks, “How many of your old men told you that you would end up in prison?” almost every hand goes up. He says,

“Well, you didn’t disappoint your old man, did you?” But then he makes the point that those prisoners don’t have to live up to the “loser” script that their “old man” hung around their necks. They can choose to be someone else. The point for fathers today is that they need to script their children for success—not failure. Tell your children that you know they will do good things, and they are likely to do them.

• Being over-protective. Having lots of rules and giving the child very little freedom.

• Humiliating the child in front of other people. One of the important rules of leadership is to give praise in public and to express criticism in private.

• Demanding more than the child can give. Some people are gifted athletically, and some aren’t. Some are smart, and others aren’t. Not very many young people keep their rooms clean. Instead of faulting your children for something that they aren’t fitted to do, figure out what they could do and encourage them to do it.

• Failure to provide the essentials: Food, clothing, shelter, protection, education. This can be difficult, because some parents have substantial resources and others don’t. The key here is that the child see that the parents are doing their best to provide. Even children can understand that you can’t get blood from a turnip, but parental indifference is likely to provoke great anger.

Exegesis Outline

Second Reading Exegesis

Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

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Agape Bible Study

Rules of Christian behavior towards neighbor and family

In the Second Reading, St. Paul lists a set of virtues for “God’s chosen ones.” The result of exhibiting such virtues is that we act with love towards one another. St. Paul writes that those who exercise these virtues are emulating divine love when they let the peace of Christ control their actions.  Paul writes that it is the love of Christ that is “the bond of perfection” for the “household of God” that is the Church of Jesus Christ.

Then, St. Paul turns from the “household of God” to the “household” of marriage and the family, writing about a mutual loving submission of husbands and wives to each other and the obedience of children to their parents. The importance of obedience of children is rooted in the fourth of the Ten Commandments, commanding children to honor their parents. For their part, parents are to nurture their children and encourage them in Christian virtues. They are to encourage their children in the same way God loves and encourages all His human children to choose the right path in their faith journeys. It is also St. Paul’s gentle reminder of the important role of the Christian family in the life of the Church.

Virtues for God's chosen's ones

In this passage, St. Paul lists a set of virtues for “God’s chosen ones” that contrast his earlier list of vices in Colossians 3:5-11: heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  The result of exhibiting such virtues is that we act with love in bearing with one another and forgiving one another.  In St. Paul’s letters, these terms not only refer to human virtues but also to the acts of God the Father and the acts of God the Son (for example 2 Cor 6:6; Gal 5:22; Eph 2:7;  Phil 2:1; etc.).

Verses 15-16 are the key aspects of Christian behavior: And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you … Paul writes that those who exercise these virtues are emulating divine love by letting “the peace of Christ control your hearts” (verse 16; also see Eph 4:3). That we are “called in one body” repeats the concept that in Christ we are called as God’s elect, His “chosen ones,” in the same way God called Israel to be His covenant people at Mount Sinai (see 3:12).  This passage is one of five times in which St. Paul refers to the Church as “the Body of Christ” in Colossians 1:18-20, 21-22; 2:9-10, 19.  If a Christian is living in imitation of Christ within the Christian community and the world, he must be kind, gentle and loving with others.  It is the love of Christ that is “the bond of perfection” for the Church.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The household of God

Next, St. Paul turns from the “household of God” to the “household” of marriage and the family, using three pairings in his teaching: husband and wives, children and parents, and fathers and their children.  In verse 18, reflecting the cultural norms of the times, Paul urges wives to submit to the decisions of their husbands as the head of the family.  In Ephesians 5:21-22, the verb Paul uses is softened to suggest mutual submission of husbands and wives.  The comparison Paul makes is that a wife should be willing to obey her husband as the Church obeys the Lord as the head of the Body of Christ.  Paul also softens his teaching by reminding husbands not to abuse their leadership in the family but to love your wives, and avoid bitterness toward them.  Paul’s command “to love” one’s wife also implies the command “to respect” the wife as a person with her own feelings and ideas.

The second pairing is between children and parents: 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.  The importance of obedience of children finds its root in the fourth of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16; also cited in Eph 6:2).  It is interesting to note that St. Paul addresses children directly in verse 20; they were obviously expected to be present in the assembly when the faith community heard the reading of Paul’s letter.

The third pairing is between fathers and children: 21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.  Verse 21 is the second reminder to men not to abuse their leadership role in the marriage and in the family.  Greco-Roman society at the time Paul wrote his letter gave an extreme form of power to fathers and husbands, the extent of which is shocking to modern standards.  Paul is reminding fathers and parents in general that children are precious to God, their heavenly Father.  Fathers are to nurture children and encourage them in Christian virtues in the same way God loves and encourages all His human children to choose the right path in their faith journeys through life.  It is also St. Paul’s gentle reminder of the important role of the Christian family in the life of the Church.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
commentary
Holy Family prayer card from the Knights of Columbus : To help families live out the joy of Christ, Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori has composed a prayerthrough which families will come together to consecrate themselves under the protection of the Holy Family. Inthis prayer, we ask for the aid or intercession of the perfect son Jesus Christ, Mary the perfect mother, and Joseph who is a model for every father. Faith in Action Resources Family Resources

“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” — Luke 2:40

PHOTO CONNECTION
Holy Family prayer card from the Knights of Columbus : To help families live out the joy of Christ, Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori has composed a prayerthrough which families will come together to consecrate themselves under the protection of the Holy Family. Inthis prayer, we ask for the aid or intercession of the perfect son Jesus Christ, Mary the perfect mother, and Joseph who is a model for every father. Faith in Action Resources Family Resources

Gospel Reading

Holy Family (B)

Luke 2:22-40

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom

  • Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him at the Temple.
  • When Simeon held Jesus in his arms, he recognized him as the Messiah.
  • As a child, Jesus grew stronger and he was filled with wisdom.

OPTION: Luke 2:22-40

SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor

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REFLECTIONS

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau

Child Jesus grew to maturity and wisdom

GOSPEL (Luke) — Luke’s typical attention to both men and womenappears in this passage on the Presentationofthe Child Jesusin the Temple. The mother and father take their firstborn to the temple for thecustomary rites. Simeon and Anna witness to the extraordinary future which this child will live out.Mary, the Mother, holds centerstage in these events. She is not presented as being there only for the rite of purification of women as prescribed in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12:1-8), but she participates in the presentation and redemption of her firstborn,along with her husband. She is addressed specifically and personally by Simeon in terms that foreshadow the Passion and death of Christ. A mother’s feelings for the destiny of her child can best be felt by other mothers. A mother’s desolationat the death of her child, even when that child has become an adult, can best be witnessed to bymothers who have experienced the death of one of their children.

A firstborn is a firstborn even though he is the only child born of that woman. That wasthe technical religious terminology of the Jewish law. A firstbornbelongs to God byright of law; that firstborn needs to be purchased or redeemed from God by the parents.

Simeon speaks of “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” The rabbis at that time usedthis expression when referring to the expectation of a Messiah (Isaiah 40:1). Simeon uses the words of an emancipated slave as he asks God to let him go in peace (freedom) now! He obviouslyis asking God to be admitted beyond death into eternal life.

Holiness radiates everywhere in that Temple scene. This family is holy; the sacred rites of religion are holy; the prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna are holy, as are the words of Godwhich come out of the holiness of their lived experience. Holiness means the presence and the power of God. Holiness is there that day. Holiness is there in very ordinary dress! The power and presence of God envelop the daily fabric of our lives,too. We experienceGod first in family living; then, in the community of the Church; and in the fellowship of all othersincere and honest human beings. Family life is the foundation of all our relationships:with God and with other persons.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Fr. Eamon Tobin

Luke’s “continuation theme”

GOSPEL (Luke) — Luke seeks to portray Jesus and his family as very faithful Jews, fulfilling two requirements of the law: purification of the mother after childbirth (Lev.12:1-8) and dedication of the first son to God (Ex.13:2, 12-16). The purification rite calls for a sacrifice. Mary and Joseph bring two pigeons, an offering of the poor. Within the presentation story, we encounter two older and very faithful Jews, Simeon and Anna, who testify to the true nature of the child. The aged saints represent the faithful remnant of Israel at her best: devout, obedient, constant in prayer and led by the Spirit at home and in the Temple, longing and hoping for the fulfillment of God’s promises. They are the portrait of the Israel who accepted Jesus—in contrast to the Pharisees and Scribes who symbolize the Israel who rejected Jesus.

Also, for Luke, this story enables him to speak of the “continuation theme” between Judaism and Christianity. Simeon and Anna, two faithful Jews, recognize and welcome the new Messiah, the One who will be a revealing light to the Gentiles and the glory of their people, Israel. Simeon poetically speaks of the painful part of Jesus’ arrival on the scene. Jesus and his life will be a ‘sword of sorrow’ for Mary and a sign that many will reject. Thus, as Simeon and Anna recognize the good news of Jesus’ arrival, they also make the reader aware of the cost of accepting the Messiah. Simeon’s prophetic words about Jesus is confirmed by the elderly Anna. She gives thanks to God and witnesses about the child to all who have kept alive hope “for the deliverance of Israel.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone

Jesus’ family is our family

GOSPEL (Luke) — The themes of family, faith and legacy reach a crescendo in this portion of the infancy narrative of Luke’s Gospel. In this story, Jesus emerges from within a family and social world deeply enmeshed in Israel’s traditions. Joseph and Mary had observed the laws regarding circumcision and purification, and now they follow the prescription of Exodus 13:2 regarding the presentation of the first born as dedicated to God. They take Jesus to Jerusalem and into the Temple where they encounter Simeon, a righteous and devout person who has received a divine promise: Before he dies, he will see the Messiah, Israel’s consolation. Sustained by faith, Simeon receives his heart’s desire, and he is now peacefully ready to die. His words about Jesus are prophetic. Jesus’ mission will be to the Gentiles and to the Jews. Both will be the recipients of God’s salvific love. Hence, the promise to Abraham, specifically, that in him all the families of the earth will be blessed, comes to a deeper fulfillment through Jesus who, through Abraham, is related to both Isaac and Ishmael, to Jews and Gentiles alike. Today, the promise extends to Jews, Christians and Muslims among others who are all part of the divine family living under blessing and promise.

Anna, a devout, aged prophetess, also encounters Jesus and his parents in the Temple. She, too, speaks well of the child whom she and Simeon see as leading Israel to God and God to Israel, symbolized by the city Jerusalem which represents the redemption and salvation of all God’s people (see Isaiah 2:2-6; 60—62; Revelation 21:1-4, 9-27).

Both Simeon and Anna reveal to Joseph and Mary theirs and Jesus’ future legacy. Yes, Jesus will be the hope of Israel — the Messiah and long-awaited one — but as Simeon points out, Jesus will be destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel and will be a sign that will be contradicted. Furthermore, Mary will suffer terribly on account of her son’s mission that will lead to his eventual death.

For Joseph, Mary and Jesus, joy, conflict and pain lie ahead as a result of those who will accept or resist God’s saving initiatives through Jesus’ mission and ministry. Such is the legacy bequeathed to all of us who dare to embody the life of Christ through our lives, who are willing to live as part of his “family,” and who choose to love those who walk in Jesus’ footsteps.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

TIPS FOR READERS

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Paul J. Schlachter

Points to consider (Luke)

  • They took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Such a tiny unit of three could be lost in the great city. I want to give an impression of anonymity, that no one noticed this family entering the temple, in contrast to what will follow.
  • Again I notice in the infancy narratives that we hear the name Jesus so seldom. There is not a single mention in this long passage. I remember that his name was given by God and that it indicated his mission to Israel, which was not to begin until his baptism and definitive manifestation.
  • Just as it is written in the law of the Lord. Three times the evangelist remarks on the family’s strict observance of the law, though they did not live in Judea.
  • Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. Three times we hear of the holy Spirit who was upon him. We know such holy men and women today. What makes us trust them? Perhaps their single-minded dedication to God, but also the fact that their words are fulfilled, as this man’s words were.
  • Now, Master, you may let your servant go. It is a joyous prayer, as anyone would say who had completed their important work. I have goals that I want to achieve; let me imagine how I would feel after having achieved them.
  • Destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel. There is no shame in what he tells Mary his mother, but he wants her to know that times will be rough. I must make sure to read the contorted language intelligently. The most difficult part would read like this: “They’ll see a man and then reject the sign.”
  • There was also a prophetess, Anna bet-Phanuel. Let me read warmly the story of her witness to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

Key elements

  • Climax: Behold, this child is destined.  It is not to be whispered! The old seer’s voice does not falter.
  • Message for our assembly: Do we dream great things for our children? And do we do everything necessary so that they can achieve them? Some parents raise their children to be superstars or entertainment idols, but who is concerned about the ways of God and the kingdom?
  • I will challenge myself: To speak with wonder of the surprising revelation
SOURCE: Paul J. Schlachter at LectorWorks.org
Greg Warnusz

Introduction for listeners

Saint Luke’s original audience were pagans who had become Christians, and had never been Jews. For them Luke grounds the gospel in the Jewish heritage of Jesus. His introduction foreshadows much of what they already knew about the adult mission of Jesus.

Oral Interpretation

The Historical Situation: Saint Luke wrote for an audience quite different from those of Mark and Matthew, different, too, from the Thessalonians and many other recipients of Paul’s letters. Luke’s readers lived a generation or more later than the apostles, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., and outside the Holy Land. They had never been Jews. They were cosmopolitan, middle-class and Gentile, living in a skeptical society, yet attracted to a religion with long historic Jewish roots. But that new religion only came to its fulfillment by reaching out to all humankind. To tell that story, to ground his audience in their adopted religious heritage, and to keep them focused on the religion’s mission, Luke needed to tell the story of Jesus anew in this gospel, and needed a second book, the Acts of the Apostles.

In the chapters of Luke about the adult Jesus, nothing refers back to the infancy narrative in chapters 1 and 2. However, the early chapters point vigorously to themes that will come later. One who has read the whole gospel can then come back to the infancy narrative and “get it” in a new way. One who proclaims this gospel or preaches on it in the Sunday assembly should let the whole gospel message inform that proclamation.

The above introduction to Luke is based on the chapter “Luke” by Scholar Jerome Kodell, O.S.B, in The Collegeville Bible Commentary — New Testament (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1992)

Proclaiming It: Use different tones of voice for Mary and the angel, but don’t overdo it. The climax of the reading comes at the end, where Mary expresses her complete surrender to God. She is both scared and proud. Make her sound so.

SOURCE: Greg Warnusz at LectorPrep.org

FOCAL THEMES

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Theology of Work Commentary

No commentary

GOSPEL—No commentary available for Luke 2:22-40

SOURCE: © 2014 Theology of Work Project, Inc.; Used with permission. (Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.)

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Life Recovery Bible

Universality of God’s plan of salvation

Luke 2:29-32 Simeon’s words reveal the universality of God’s plan of salvation. It was a rare thing for a Jew to declare that the Messiah would bring deliverance to the whole world, not just the Jews. God reaches out to all people, not just one ethnic group. He gives light, life, and contentment to all who put their faith in him through Jesus Christ. God will accept any who turn to him for help, regardless of background or situation in life. He is the universal Savior. With faith in Jesus we can go through life and death “in peace,” as did Simeon.

The power of faith can bring meaning

Luke 2:36-38 Anna modeled how the power of faith can bring meaning to life for people in recovery. After many years of widowhood, Anna did not allow bitterness to set in. Instead, she found that her singleness gave her more opportunities to serve God in the Temple. She overcame adversity by drawing closer to God through prayer and fasting, and she was given the gift of prophecy. Anna accepted God’s plan for her, which included a glimpse of the Messiah she had been longing for. Decades of unwanted singleness can drive many of us to find love in all the wrong places. We must trust God in that area of life as well.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

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A sword will pierce your soul

A sword will pierce your soul

33Joseph and his mother were marveling at the things which were spoken concerning him, 34and Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. 35Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Joseph and his mother were marveling at the things which were spoken concerning him” (v. 33). Amazement is a frequent response to Jesus in this Gospel (1:63; 2:18, 47; 4:22, 36; 5:9; 7:9; 8:25; 9:43; 11:14, 38; 20:26; 24:12).

and Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother” (v. 34a). Simeon blesses the Holy Family (v. 34), but then directs his Second Oracle (vv. 34b-35) to Mary. It is quite possible that Joseph dies before Jesus begins his ministry. If so, Joseph will not experience the events of this Second Oracle, which has an ominous tone. Simeon speaks of rising and falling—and opposition—and a sword.

The Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel” (v. 34b) could refer to the fact that some Jews will become Jesus’ disciples while others will oppose him. It could refer to families being torn apart as some choose Jesus and the rest turn against them. It could refer to the first who will become last and the last who will become first (13:30). It could refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.

and for a sign which is spoken against” (v. 34c). While Jesus is light (v. 32), “the inescapable fact is that anyone who turns on light creates shadows” (Craddock, Interpretation, 39). Jesus will be a friend to tax collectors and sinners, but religious authorities will oppose him and will finally succeed in killing him.

Simeon tells Mary, “a sword will pierce through your own soul” (v. 35a). There will be times during Jesus’ ministry when Jesus seems not to care about his family (8:19-21)—or when he seems to speak sharply to Mary (John 2:4), and those must be painful times for Mary. Also, Mary cannot fail to see that Jesus stirs great controversy, and must be distressed to know that it is the best rather than the worst of society that opposes him. At the cross, the sword that pierces Jesus’ side surely will not be as painful as the sword that pierces Mary’s heart. God has honored Mary by choosing her to be the mother of the Messiah, but the honor will not include an easy life. What could be more painful than a mother seeing her son executed as a common criminal?

that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (v. 35b). Jesus will be able to perceive the unspoken questions of people’s hearts (5:22), and will scatter “the proud in the thoughts of their hearts” (1:51).

Copyright 2014, Richard Niell Donovan
Exegesis Outline

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Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the Temple

The Gospel Reading recounts baby Jesus’ parents presenting Him at the Jerusalem Temple when He was forty-days old, in obedience to the Law of the Sinai Covenant.  At the time of His presentation and Mary’s sacrificial offerings, the Prophet Simeon and the Prophetess Anna received a divine revelation of Jesus’ true identity.  In their prophecies over baby Jesus, they began the proclamation of the Gospel.  Recognizing the Davidic Messiah, they began to announce His coming to the extended family of His covenant people, moving forward God’s Divine Plan for mankind’s salvation.

In the ecclesial community, we experience the Christian family which constitutes a specific revelation and realization of what is the “domestic church.”  The Christian family is a communion of persons in the Body of Christ, and it is “a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2205).  In the procreation and bringing up of children in the Christian family, we reflect the Father’s work of creation.  The spiritually reborn children of God in the Christian family still have a mission to fulfill in salvation history.  The members of the Christian family are called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  They are also called to fulfill the mission to evangelize within the family and outside the family to the other families in the world.

Fathers of the Church: Baby Jesus coming to the temple

When Mary completed the days of her purification according to the Law (Lev 12:1-8), Joseph took Mary and baby Jesus from Bethlehem to the holy city of Jerusalem.  The Fathers of the Church saw baby Jesus coming to the Temple as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Malachi 3:1b: And suddenly there will come to the Temple the LORD whom you seek … Women who gave birth to male children were required to observe forty days of ritual confinement after which they were to present themselves at the Temple for purification (if it was a girl child, the mother came on the eightieth day).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Israelite ritual purification

The LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites: When a woman has conceived and gives birth to a boy, she shall be unclean for seven days, with the same uncleanness as at her menstrual period.  On the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised, and then she shall spend thirty-three days more in becoming purified of her blood; she shall not touch anything sacred nor enter the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled (Lev 12:1-4).

The seven days plus the additional thirty-three days brings the total number of days for purification to forty days.  On the eighth day after birth, a boy child was circumcised according to the Law since the time of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 17:9-14; Lev 12:3; Lk 1:59; 2:21).  After the completion of her days of purification, the new mother went to the Temple of Yahweh in the holy city of Jerusalem.  She bathed in the Temple ritual purification pool (mikvah) and presented a whole burnt offering and a sin sacrifice to the Lord (Lev 12:6-7).  If the child was a firstborn male, the woman was required to dedicate him to God: Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated [or holy] to the Lord, as Luke quotes in verse 23 from Exodus 13:2.  Carrying out this requirement is just one of the ways in which Mary fulfilled the angel Gabriel’s prophecy when he told her that her Son will be called “holy” in Luke 1:35.  Mary and Joseph, with the forty-day-old baby Jesus, journeyed the five miles from Bethlehem (located south of Jerusalem on the east ridge of the mountain watershed) up the mountain to Jerusalem.  The city is about 2,500 miles above sea level at its highest point at the top of Mt. Moriah where the Holy Temple of God stood.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Law of the Lord

24 and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord

Luke will use the term “law of the Lord” or “Law of Moses nine times in the Greek text; five of those times appear in this chapter (Lk 2:22, 23, 24, 27, 39; 10:26; 16:16-17; 24:44). The sacrifice identifies the Holy Family’s humble station. The Law identified it as a sacrifice of the poor (Lev 12:6-8).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The prophetic statements of Simeon and Anna

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.  This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

St. Luke describes Simeon in four ways: he is righteous, devout, actively awaiting the coming of the Messiah, and God’s Spirit is with him.

28 he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: 29 “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

The Holy Family was in the outer court when Simeon approached them.  St. Luke uses the Greek term hieron, which includes the whole of the Temple complex but not the inner court and Sanctuary (naos) that is accessible only to priests.  An individual, including a woman, could enter the inner court where the altar of sacrifice stood only when offering a sacrifice.

The Church calls Simeon’s prayer of praise the Nunc Dimittis (in Latin).  It divides into two parts and is followed by a prophecy for Mary.  The two parts of Simeon’s prayer include:

  1. The fulfillment of God’s promise to Simeon
  2. The prophecy of a universal salvation

Having been told that he will live until he has seen the Messiah, Simeon now identifies Jesus as the promised Redeemer-Messiah not just for Israel but for all nations, proclaiming a universal message of salvation.  Addressing God and using the prophetic language of Isaiah 42:6 and Isaiah 49:6 from the “Song of the Servant” passages, it is the child Jesus who Simeon identifies as “your salvation.”  This declaration may also suggest wordplay on Jesus’ name that means “Yahweh is salvation.”

38 The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; 34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted 35 (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

After blessing Joseph and Mary, Simeon offers a prophecy of opposition and suffering. Simeon’s prophecy concerning Jesus is ominous. The child will create opposition, and people will be divided over their response to Him.  It is an ominous prediction because the “falling” comes before the “rising.”  Simeon has announced the rejection of the Messiah by His people.

And then turning to Mary, Simeon offers a prophecy, saying, “and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Simeon prophesies that Mary will share in her Son’s suffering.  The Cross is Jesus’ unique sacrifice, and it is also a sacrifice He asks all His disciples to embrace as His partners in the plan of redemption (see Mt 10:38; 16:24; Mk 8:34; 10:21; Lk 9:23; 14:27). Catechism 618 records: “…Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.  This association is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.”  As the embodiment of the “daughter of Zion,” Mary will live out the sorrow of her people in their struggle to come to terms with Jesus’ mission.  The symbolic mention of the sword may be related to the prophecies in Ezekiel 14:7-8 and Zechariah 12:10.

36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the Temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.  38 And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

The proclamation of the Gospel has begun.  Simeon and Anna the prophetess have recognized Jesus’ true identity as the Redeemer-Messiah and have begun to announce His coming to His people.  The paring of Simeon and Anna is the third righteous man/woman combination in the birth narrative: Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, and now Simeon and Anna.  God has always used righteous men and women to move forward His plan for mankind’s salvation.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

The Holy Family returns to Nazareth
39 When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and the favor of God was upon him.

The Holy Family, having obediently fulfilled their covenant obligations according to the Law, returned to Nazareth.  It is understood, in the context of the narrative in St. Matthew’s Gospel, that their move to Nazareth was after King Herod’s death when it was safe for them to return from their time in Egypt (Mt 2:19-23).  Verse 40 is the conclusion of Jesus’ birth narrative and echoes the description John 1:80: The child grew and became strong in spirit …

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

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Catena Aurea

Annotated index of Church Fathers used in commentary

Third Century

  • Origen – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian) – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great” – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople) – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh) (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch) – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.) – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt) – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople) – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre) – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc) – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria

Catena Aurea

Holy Family (B)

The Catena Aurea (Golden Chain) is Thomas Aquinas’ compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels. It seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Church Fathers.

Luke 2:22-40

VERSES 22-25

22. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;

23. (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

25. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Next after the circumcision they wait for the time of purification, as it is said, And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were come.

BEDE. If you diligently examine the words of the law, you will find indeed that the mother of God as she is free from all connexion with man, so is she exempt from any obligation of the law. For not every woman who brings forth, but she who has received seed and brought forth, is pronounced unclean, and by the ordinances of the law is taught that she must be cleansed, in order to distinguish probably from her who though a virgin has conceived and brought forth. But that we might be loosed from the bonds of the law, as did Christ, so also Mary submitted herself of her own will to the law.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. Therefore the Evangelist has well observed, that the days of her purification were come according to the law, who since she had conceived of the Holy Spirit, was free from all uncleanness. It follows, They brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.g

ATHANASIUS. But when was the Lord hid from His Father’s eye, that He should not be seen by Him, or what place is excepted from His dominion, that by remaining there He should be separate from His Father, unless brought to Jerusalem and introduced into the temple? But for us perhaps these things were written. For as not to confer grace on Himself was He made man and circumcised in the flesh, but to make us Gods through grace, and that we might be circumcised in the Spirit, so for our sakes is He presented to the Lord, that we also might learn to present ourselves to the Lord.

BEDE. On the thirty-third day after His circumcision He is presented to the Lord, signifying in a mystery that no one but he who is circumcised from his sins is worthy to come into the Lord’s sight, that no one who has not severed himself from all human ties can perfectly enter into the joys of the heavenly city. It follows, As it is written in the law of the Lord.

ORIGEN. Where are they who deny that Christ proclaimed in the Gospel the law to be of God, or can it be supposed that the righteous God made His own Son under a hostile law which He Himself had not given? It is written in the law of Moses as follows, Every male which openeth the womb shall be called holy unto the Lord. (Ex. 13:2, 12.)

BEDE. By the words, opening the womb, he signifies the first-born both of man and beast, and each one of which was, according to the commandment, to be called holy to the Lord, and therefore to become the property of the priest, that is, so far that he was to receive a price for every first-born of man, and oblige every unclean animal to be ransomed.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (in Hom. de occursu Domini.) Now this commandment of the law seems to have had its fulfilment in the incarnate God, in a very remarkable and peculiar manner. For He alone, ineffably conceived and incomprehensibly brought forth, opened the virgin’s womb, till then unopened by marriage, and after this birth miraculously retaining the seal of chastity.

AMBROSE. For no union with man disclosed the secrets of the virgin’s womb, but the Holy Spirit infused the immaculate seed into an inviolate womb. He then who sanctified another womb in order that a prophet should be born, He it is who has opened the womb of His own mother, that the Immaculate should come forth. By the words opening the womb, he speaks of birth after the usual manner, not that the sacred abode of the virgin’s womb, which our Lord in entering sanctified, should now be thought by His proceeding forth from it to be deprived of its virginity.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) But the offspring of this birth is alone seen to be spiritually male, as contracting no guilt from being born of a woman. Hence He is truly called holy, and therefore Gabriel, as if announcing that this commandment belonged to Him only, said, That Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Now of other first-borns the wisdom of the Gospel has declared that they are called holy from their being offered to God. But the first-born of every creature, That holy thing which is born, &c. the Angel pronounces to be in the nature of its very being holy.

AMBROSE. For among those that are born of a woman, the Lord Jesus alone is in every thing holy, who in the newness of His immaculate birth experienced not the contagion of earthly defilement, but by His Heavenly Majesty dispelled it. For if we follow the letter, how can every male be holy, since it is undoubted that many have been most wicked? But He is holy whom in the figure of a future mystery the pious ordinances of the divine law prefigured, because He alone was to open the hidden womb of the holy virgin Church for the begetting of nations.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (Hom. xi.) Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! (Rom. 11:33.) He offers victims, Who in each victim is honoured equally with the Father. The Truth preserves the figures of the law. He who as God is the Maker of the law, as man has kept the law. Hence it follows, And that they should give a victim as it was ordered in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons. (Lev. 12:8.)

BEDE. (Hom. Purif.) Now this was the victim of the poor. For the Lord commanded in the law that they who were able should offer a lamb for a son or a daughter as well as a turtle dove or pigeon; but they who were not able to offer a lamb should give two turtle doves or two young pigeons. Therefore the Lord, though he was rich, deigned to become poor, that by his poverty He might make us partakers of His riches.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (ubi sup.) But let us see what these offerings mean. The turtle dove is the most vocal of birds, and the pigeon the gentlest. And such was the Saviour made unto us; He was endowed with perfect meekness, and like the turtle dove entranced the world, fillinga His garden with His own melodies. There was killed then either a turtle dove or a pigeon, that by a figure He might be shewn forth unto us as about to suffer in the flesh for the life of the world.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) Or the pigeon denotes simplicity, the turtle dove chastity, for the pigeon is a lover of simplicity, and the turtle dove of chastity, so that if by chance she has lost her mate, she heeds not to find another. Rightly then are the pigeon and turtle dove offered as victims to the Lord, because the simple and chaste conversation of the faithful is a sacrifice of righteousness well pleasing to Him.

ATHANASIUS. (ubi sup.) He ordered two things to be offered, because as man consists of both body and soul, the Lord requires a double return from us, chastity and meekness, not only of the body, but also of the soul. Otherwise, man will be a dissembler and hypocrite, wearing the face of innocence to mask his hidden malice.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) But while each bird, from its habit of wailing, represents the present sorrows of the saints, in this they differ, that the turtle is solitary, but the pigeon flies about in flocks, and hence the one points to the secret tears of confession, the other to the public assembling of the Church.

BEDE. Or the pigeon which flies in flocks sets forth the busy intercourse of active life. The turtle, which delights in solitariness, tells of the lofty heights of the contemplative life. But because each victim is equally accepted by the Creator, St. Luke has purposely omitted whether the turtles or young pigeons were offered for the Lord, that he might not prefer one mode of life before another, but teach that both ought to be followed.

VERSES 25-28

25. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

27. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28. Then took he him up in his arms.

AMBROSE. Not only did Angels and Prophets, the shepherds and his parents, bear witness to the birth of the Lord, but the old men and the righteous. As it is said, And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and he was a just man, and one who feared God. For scarcely is righteousness preserved without fear, I mean not that fear which dreads the loss of worldly goods, (which perfect love casteth out,) (1 John 4:18) but that holy fear of the Lord which abideth for ever, (Ps. 19:9.) by which the righteous man, the more ardent his love to God, is so much the more careful not to offend Him.

AMBROSE. Well is he called righteous who sought not his own good, but the good of his nation, as it follows, Waiting for the consolation of Israel.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) It was not surely worldly happiness that the prudent Simeon was waiting for as the consolation of Israel, but a real happiness, that is, a passing over to the beauty of truth from the shadow of the law. For he had learnt from the sacred oracles that he would see the Lord’s Christ before he should depart out of this present life. Hence it follows, And the Holy Spirit was in him, (by which indeed he was justified,) and he received an answer from the Holy Spirit.

AMBROSE. He desired indeed to be loosed from the chains of bodily infirmity, but he waits to see the promise, for he knew, Happy are those eyes which shall see it. (Job 6.)

GREGORY. (Mor. 7.) Hereby also we learn with what desire the holy men of Israel desired to see the mystery of His incarnation.

BEDE. To see death means to undergo it, and happy will he be to see the death of the flesh who has first been enabled to see with the eyes of his heart the Lord Christ, having his conversation in the heavenly Jerusalem, and frequently entering the doors of God’s temple, that is, following the examples of the saints in whom God dwells as in His temple. By the same grace of the Spirit whereby he foreknew Christ would come, he now acknowledges Him come, as it follows, And he came by the Spirit into the temple.

ORIGEN. If thou wilt touch Jesus and grasp Him in thy hands, strive with all thy strength to have the Spirit for thy guide, and come to the temple of God. For it follows, And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, (i. e. Mary His mother, and Joseph His reputed father,) to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) How blessed was that holy entrance to holy things through which he hastened on to the end of life, blessed those hands which handled the word of life, and the arms which were held out to receive Him!

BEDE. Now the righteous man, according to the law, received the Child Jesus in his arms, that he might signify that the legal righteousness of works under the figure of the hands and arms was to be changed for the lowly indeed but saving grace of Gospel faith. The old man received the infant Christ, to convey thereby that this world, now worn out as it were with old age, should return to the childlike innocence of the Christian life.

VERSES 28-32

28.—and blessed God, and said,

29. Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31. Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

ORIGEN. If we marvel to hear that a woman was healed by touching the hem of a garment, what must we think of Simeon, who received an Infant in his arms, and rejoiced seeing that the little one he carried was He who had come to let loose the captive! Knowing that no one could release him from the chains of the body with the hope of future life, but He whom he held in his arms. Therefore it is said, And he blessed God, saying, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart.

THEOPHYLACT. When he says Lord, he confesses that He is the very Lord of both life and death, and so acknowledges the Child whom he held in his arms to be God.

ORIGEN. As if he said, “As long as I held not Christ, I was in prison, and could not escape from my bonds.”

BASIL. (Hom. de grat. act.) If you examine the words of the righteous, you will find that they all sorrow over this world and its mournful delay. Alas me! says David, that my habitation is prolonged. (Ps. 120:5.)

AMBROSE. Observe then that this just man, confined as it were in the prison house of his earthly frame, is longing to be loosed, that he may again be with Christ. (Phil. 1:23.) But whoso would be cleansed, let him come into the temple;—into Jerusalem: let him wait for the Lord’s Christ, let him receive in his hands the word of God, and embrace it as it were with the arms of his faith. Then let him depart that he might not see death who has seen life.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Photius.) Simeon blessed God also, because the promises made to him had received their true fulfilment. For He was reckoned worthy to see with his eyes, and to carry in his arms the consolation of Israel. And therefore he says, According to thy word, i. e. since I have obtained the completion of thy promises. And now that I have seen with my eyes what was my desire to see, now lettest thou thy servant depart, neither dismayed at the taste of death, nor harassed with doubting thoughts: as he adds, in peace.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) For since Christ has destroyed the enemy, which is sin, and has reconciled us to the Father, the removal of saints has been in peace.

ORIGEN. But who departs from this world in peace, but he who is persuaded that God was Christ reconciling the world to Himself, (2 Cor. 5.) who has nothing hostile to God, having derived to himself all peace by good works in himself?

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (ubi sup.) But it had been twice promised to him that he should not sec death before he should sec the Lord’s Christ, and therefore he adds, to shew that this promise was fulfilled, For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) Blessed are the eyes, both of thy soul and thy body. For the one visibly embrace God, but the others not considering those things which are seen, but enlightened by the brightness of the Spirit of the Lord, acknowledge the Word made flesh. For the salvation which thou hast perceived with thy eyes is Jesus Himself, by which name salvation is declared.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (ubi sup.) But Christ was the mystery which has been revealed in the last times of the world, having been prepared before the foundation of the world. Hence it follows, which thou hast prepared before the face of all men.

ATHANASIUS. (non occ.) That is to say, the salvation wrought by Christ for the whole world. How then was it said above that he was watching for the consolation of Israel, but because he truly perceived in the spirit that consolation would be to Israel at that time when salvation was prepared for all people.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Photius.) Mark the wisdom of the good and venerable old man, who before that he was thought worthy of the blessed vision, was waiting for the consolation of Israel, but when he obtained that which he was looking for, exclaims that he saw the salvation of all people. So enlightened was he by the unspeakable radiance of the Child, that he perceived at a glance things that were to happen a long time after.

THEOPHYLACT. By these words, Before the face, he signifies that our Lord’s incarnation would be visible to all men. And this salvation he says is to be the light of the Gentiles and the glory of Israel, as it follows, A light to lighten the Gentiles.

ATHANASIUS. (non occ.) For the Gentiles before the coming of Christ were lying in the deepest darkness, being without the knowledge of God.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (ubi sup.) But Christ coming was made a light to them that sat in darkness, being sore oppressed by the power of the devil, but they were called by God the Father to the knowledge of His Son, Who is the true light.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) Israel was enlightened though dimly by the law, so he says not that light came to them, but his words are, to be the glory of thy people Israel. Calling to mind the ancient history, that as of old Moses after speaking with God returned with his face glorious, so they also coming to the divine light of His human nature, casting away their old veil, might be transformed into the same image from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:7.) For although some of them were disobedient, yet a remnant were saved and came through Christ to glory, of which the Apostles were first-fruits, whose brightness illumines the whole world. For Christ was in a peculiar manner the glory of Israel, because according to the flesh He came forth from Israel, although as God He was over all blessed for ever.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) He said therefore, of thy people, signifying that not only was He adored by them, but moreover of them was He born according to the flesh.

BEDE. And well is the enlightening of the Gentiles put before the glory of Israel, because when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in, then shall Israel be safe. (Rom 11:26.)

VERSES 33-35

33. And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

34. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

35. (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Photius.) The knowledge of supernatural things, as often as it is brought to the recollection, renews the miracle in the mind, and hence it is said, His father and mother marvelled at those things which were said of him.

ORIGEN. Both by the angel and the multitude of the heavenly host, by the shepherds also, and Simeon.

BEDE. Joseph is called the father of the Saviour, not because he was (as the Photinians say) His real father, but because from regard to the reputation of Mary, all men considered him so.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. in Evan. ii. 1.) He however might be called His father in that light in which he is rightly regarded as the husband of Mary, that is, not from any carnal connection, but by reason of the very bond of wedlock, a far closer relationship than that of adoption. For that Joseph was not to be called Christ’s father was not, because he had not begotten Him by cohabitation, since in truth he might be a father to one whom he had not begotten from his wife, but had adopted from another.

ORIGEN. But they who look deeper into the matter may say, that since the genealogy is deduced from David to Joseph, therefore lest Joseph should seem to be mentioned for no purpose, as not being the father of the Saviour, he was called His father, that the genealogy might maintain its place.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (ubi sup.) Having given praise to God, Simeon now turns to bless them that brought the Child, as it follows, And Simeon blessed them. He gave to each a blessing, but his presage of hidden things he imparts only to the mother, in order that in the common blessing He might not deprive Joseph of the likeness of a father, but in what he says to the mother apart from Joseph he might proclaim her to be the true mother.

AMBROSE. Behold what abundant grace is extended to all men by the birth of the Lord, and how prophecy is withheld from the unbelievers, not from the righteous. Simeon also prophesies that Christ Jesus has come for the fall and rising again of many.

ORIGEN. They who explain this simply, may say that He came for the fall of unbelievers, and the rising again of believers.

CHRYSOSTOM. As the light though it may annoy weak eyes, is still light; in like manner the Saviour endures, though many fall away, for His office is not to destroy; but their way is madness. Wherefore not only by the salvation of the good, but by the scattering of the wicked, is His power shewn. For the sun the brighter it shines, is the more trying to the weak sight.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (non occ.) Mark the nice distinction here observed. Salvation is said to be prepared before the face of all people, but the falling and raising is of many; for the Divine purpose was the salvation and sanctification of every one, whereas the falling and lifting up stands in the will of many, believers and unbelievers. But that those who were lying in unbelief should be raised up again is not unreasonable.

ORIGEN. The careful interpreter will say, that no one falls who was not before standing. Tell me then, who were they who stood, for whose fall Christ came?

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (non occ.) But by this he signifies a fall to the very lowest, as if the punishment before the mystery of the incarnation, fell far short of that after the giving and preaching of the Gospel dispensation. And those spoken of are chiefly of Israel, who must of necessity forfeit their ancient privileges, and pay a heavier penalty than any other nation, because they were so unwilling to receive Him Who had long been prophesied among them, had been worshipped, and had come forth from them. In a most especial manner then he threatens them with not only a fall from spiritual freedom, but also the destruction of their city, and of those who dwelt among them. But a resurrection is promised to believers, partly indeed as subject to the law, and about to be delivered from its bondage, but partly as buried together with Christ, and rising with Him.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (hom. de occ. Dom.) Now from these words, you may perceive through the agreement of men’s minds on the word of prophecy, that one and the same God and lawgiver hath spoken both in the Prophets and the New Testament. For the language of prophecy declared that there shall be a stone of fulling, and a rock of offence, that they who believe on Him should not be confounded. (Is. 8:14, Rom. 9:33.) The fall therefore is to them who are offended with the meanness of His coming in the flesh; the rising again to those who acknowledge the stedfastness of the Divine purpose.

ORIGEN. There is also a deeper meaning aimed against those who raise their voices against their Creator, saying, Behold the God of the Law and the Prophets of what sort He is! He says, I kill, and I make alive. (Deut. 32:39.) If God then is a bloody judge and a cruel master, it is most plain that Jesus is His Son, since the same things here are written of Him, namely, that he comes for the fall and rising again of many.

AMBROSE. That is, to distinguish the merits of the just and the unjust, and according to the quality of our deeds, as a true and just Judge, to decree punishment or rewards.

ORIGEN. But we must take care lest by chance the Saviour should not come to some equally for the fall and rising again; for when I stood in sin, it was first good for me to fall, and die to sin. Lastly, Prophets and Saints when they were designing some great thing, used to fall on their faces, that by their fall their sins should be the more fully blotted out. This it is that the Saviour first grants to thee. Thou wert a sinner, let that which is sin fall in thee, that thou mayest thence rise again, and say, If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him. (2 Tim. 2:11.)

CHRYSOSTOM. The resurrection is a new life and conversation. For when the sensual man becomes chaste, the covetous merciful, the cruel man gentle, a resurrection takes place. Sin being dead, righteousness rises again. It follows, And for a sign which shall be spoken against.

BASIL. (ep. 260. ad Opt.) The sign which is spoken against is called in Scripture, the cross. For Moses, it says, made a brazen serpent, and placed it for a sign. (Numb. 21:8.)

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (non occ.) He has joined together honour and dishonour. For to us Christians this sign is a token of honour, but it is a sign of contradiction, inasmuch by some indeed it is received as absurd and monstrous, by others with the greatest veneration. Or perhaps Christ Himself is termed a sign, as having a supernatural existence, and as the author of signs.

BASIL. (ubi sup.) For a sign betokens something marvellous and mysterious, which is seen indeed by the simple minded.

ORIGEN. But all the things which history relates of Christ are spoken against, not that those who believe on Him speak against Him, (for we know that all the things which are written of Him are true,) but that every thing which has been written of Him is with the unbelievers a sign which is spoken against.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (non occ.) Though these things are said of the Son, yet they have reference also to His mother, who takes each thing to herself, whether it be of danger or glory. He announces to her not only her prosperity, but her sorrows; for it follows. And a sword shall pierce through thy own heart.

BEDE. No history tells us that Mary departed this life by being slain with the sword, therefore since not the soul but the body is killed with iron, we are left to understand that sword which is mentioned, And a sword in their lips, (Ps. 59:7.) that is, grief because of our Lord’s passion passed through her soul, who although she saw Christ the very Son of God die a voluntary death, and doubted not that He who was begotten of her flesh would overcome death, could not without grief see Him crucified.

AMBROSE. Or it shews the wisdom of Mary, that she was not ignorant of the heavenly Majesty. For the word of God is living and strong, and sharper than the sharpest sword. (Heb. 4:12.)

AUGUSTINE. (de Nov. ac vet, Test. c. 73.) Or by this is signified that Mary also, through whom was performed the mystery of the incarnation, looked with doubt and astonishment at the death of her Lord, seeing the Son of God so humbled as to come down even to death. And as a sword passing close by a man causes fear, though it does not strike him; so doubt also causes sorrow, yet does not kill; for it is not fastened to the mind, but passes through it as through a shadow.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (de occ. Dom. non occ.) But it is not meant that she alone was concerned in that passion, for it is added, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. The word that marks the event; it is not used causatively; for when all these events took place, there followed the discovery of many men’s intentions. For some confessed God on the cross, others even then ceased not from their blasphemies and revilings. Or this was said, meaning that at the time of the passion the thoughts of men’s hearts should be laid open, and be corrected by the resurrection. For doubts are quickly superseded by certainty. Or perhaps by revealing may be meant, the enlightening of the thoughts, as it is often used in Scripture.

BEDE. But now even down to the close of the present time, the sword of the severest tribulation ceases not to go through the soul of the Church, when with bitter sorrow she experiences the evil speaking against the sign of faith, when hearing the word of God that many are raised with Christ, she finds still more falling from the faith, when at the revealing of the thoughts of many hearts, in which the good seed of the Gospel has been sown, she beholds the tares of vice overshooting it, spreading beyond it, or growing alone.

ORIGEN. But the evil thoughts of men were revealed, that He Who died for us might slay them; for while they were hidden, it was impossible to utterly destroy them. Hence also when we have sinned we ought to say, Mine iniquity have I not hid. (Ps. 32:5.) For if we make known our sins not only to God, but to whoever can heal our wounds, our sins will be blotted out.

VERSES 36-38

36. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

37. And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

38. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

AMBROSE. Simeon had prophesied, a woman united in marriage had prophesied, a virgin had prophesied, it was meet also that a widow should prophesy, that there might lack no sex or condition of life, and therefore it is said, And there was one Anna a prophetess.

THEOPHYLACT. The Evangelist dwells some time on the account of Anna, mentioning both her father’s tribe, and adding, as it were, many witnesses who knew her father and her tribe.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) Or because at that time there were several others who were called by the same name, that there might be a plain way of distinguishing her, he mentions her father, and describes the quality of her parents.

AMBROSE. Now Anna, both from the duties of her widowhood and her manner of life, is found to be such that she is thought worthy to announce the Redeemer of the world. As it follows, She was of a great age, and had lived with her husband, &c.

ORIGEN. For the Holy Spirit dwelt not by chance in her. For the highest blessing, if any can possess it, is the grace of virginity, but if this cannot be, and it chance to a woman to lose her husband, let her remain a widow, which indeed not only after the death of her husband, but even while he is living, she ought to have in her mind, that supposing it should not happen, her will and determination might be crowned by the Lord, and her words should be, “This I vow, and promise, that if a certain condition of this life be mine, (which yet I wish not,) I will do nothing else but remain inviolate and a widow.” Most justly then was this holy woman thought worthy to receive the gift of prophecy, because by long chastity and long fastings she had ascended to this height of virtue, as it follows, Who departed not from the temple with fastings and prayers, &c.

ORIGEN. From which it is plain that she possessed a multitude of other virtues; and mark how she resembles Simeon in his goodness, for they were both in the temple together, and both counted worthy of prophetic grace, as it follows, And she coming in at this very instant, gave thanks to the Lord.

THEOPHYLACT. That is, returned thanks for seeing in Israel the Saviour of the world, and she confessed of Jesus that He was the Redeemer and the Saviour. Hence it follows, And she spoke of him to all, &c.

ORIGEN. But because Anna’s words were nothing remarkable, and of no great note respecting Christ, the Gospel does not give the particulars of what she said, and perhaps for this reason one may suppose that Simeon anticipated her, since he indeed bore the character of the law, (for his name signifies obedience,) but she the character of grace, (which her name is by interpretation,) and Christ came between them. Therefore He let Simeon depart dying with the law, but Anna he sustains living beyond through grace.

BEDE. According to the mystical meaning, Anna signifies the Church, who at present is indeed a widow by the death of her Husband; the number also of the years of her widowhood marks the time of the Church, at which established in the body, she is separated from the Lord. For seven times twelve make eighty-four, seven indeed referring to the course of this world, which revolves in seven days; but twelve had reference to the perfection of Apostolic teaching, and therefore the Universal Church, or any faithful soul which strives to devote the whole period of its life to the following of Apostolic practice, is said to serve the Lord for eighty-four years. The term also of seven years, during which she lived with her husband, coincides. For through the prerogative of our Lord’s greatness, whereby abiding in the flesh, He taught, the simple number of seven years was taken to express the sign of perfection. Anna also favours the mysteries of the Church, being by interpretation its “grace,” and being both the daughter of Phanuel, who is called “the face of God,” and descended from the tribe of Aser, i. e. the blessed.

VERSES 39-41

39. And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

40. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

41. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.

BEDE. Luke has omitted in this place what he knew to have been sufficiently set forth by Matthew, that the Lord after this, for fear that He should be discovered and put to death by Herod, was carried by His parents into Egypt, and at Herod’s death, having at length returned to Galilee, came to dwell in His own city Nazareth. For the Evangelists individually are wont to omit certain things which they either know to have been, or in the Spirit foresee will be, related by others, so that in the connected chain of their narrative, they seem as it were to have omitted nothing, whereas by examining the writings of another Evangelist, the careful reader may discover the places where the omissions have been. Thus after omitting many things, Luke says, And when they had accomplished all things, &c.

THEOPHYLACT. Bethlehem was indeed their city, their paternal city, Nazareth the place of their abode.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evan. ii. 9.) Perhaps it may strike you as strange that Matthew should say that His parents went with the young Child into Galilee because they were unwilling to go to Judæa for fear of Archelaus, when they seem to have gone into Galilee rather because their city was Nazareth in Galilee, as Luke in this place explains it. But we must consider, that when the Angel, said in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Rise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel, (Matt. 2:20.) it was at first understood by Joseph as a command to go into Judæa, for so at first sight the land of Israel might have been taken to mean. But when afterwards he finds that Herod’s son Archelaus was king, he was unwilling to be exposed to that danger, seeing the land of Israel might also be understood to include Galilee also as a part of it, for there also the people of Israel dwelt.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Metaphrastes.) Or again, Luke is here describing the time before the descent to Egypt, for before her purification Joseph had not taken Mary there. But before they went down into Egypt, they were not told by God to go to Nazareth, but as living more freely in their own country, thither of their own accord they went; for since the going up to Bethlehem was for no other reason but the taxing, when that was accomplished they go down to Nazareth.

THEOPHYLACT. Now our Lord might have come forth from the womb in the stature of mature age, but this would seem like something imaginary; therefore His growth is gradual, as it follows, And the child grew, and waxed strong.

BEDE. We must observe the distinction of words, that the Lord Jesus Christ in that He was a child, that is, had put on the condition of human weakness, was daily growing and being strengthened.

ATHANASIUS. (lib. de Incarn. Christi cont. Apollin.) But if as some say the flesh was changed into a Divine nature, how did it derive growth? for to attribute growth to an uncreated substance is impious.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Rightly with the growth in age, St. Luke has united increase in wisdom, as he says, And he was strengthened, (i. e. in spirit.) For in proportion to the measure of bodily growth, the Divine nature developed its own wisdom.

THEOPHYLACT. For if while yet a little child, He had displayed His wisdom, He would have seemed a miracle, but together with the advance of age He gradually shewed Himself, so as to fill the whole world. For not as receiving wisdom is He said to be strengthened in spirit. For that which is most perfect in the beginning, how can that become any more perfect. Hence it follows, Filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was in him.

BEDE. Wisdom truly, for in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, (Col. 2:19.) but grace, because it was in great grace given to the man Christ Jesus, that from the time He began to be man He should be perfect man and perfect God. But much rather because He was the word of God, and God needed not to be strengthened, nor was in a state of growth. But while He was yet a little child He had the grace of God, that as in Him all things were wonderful, His childhood also might be wonderful, so as to be filled with the wisdom of God. It follows, And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the feast of the Passover.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Orat. cont. Judæos.) At the feast of the Hebrews the law commanded men not only to observe the time, but the place, and so the Lord’s parents wished to celebrate the feast of the Passover only at Jerusalem.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. ii. 10.) But it may be asked, how did His parents go up all the years of Christ’s childhood to Jerusalem, if they were prevented from going there by fear of Archelaus? This question might be easily answered, even had some one of the Evangelists mentioned how long Archelaus reigned. For it were possible that on the feast day amid so great a crowd they might secretly come, and soon return again, at the same time that they feared to remain there on other days, so as neither to be wanting in religious duties by neglecting the feast, nor leave themselves open to detection by a constant abode there. But now since all have been silent as to the length of Archelaus’ reign, it is plain that when Luke says, They were accustomed to go up every year to Jerusalem, we are to understand that to have been when Archelaus was no longer feared.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000Commentary in public domain.
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