Engaging Faith | Mon, Dec 22, 2008
Feast of the Holy Family [b]
December 28, 2008
Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3 or Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19 or Colossians 3:12-21
Luke 2:22-40 or Luke 2:22, 39-40
To overcome today's individualistic mentality, a concrete commitment to solidarity and charity is needed, beginning in the family.
Pope John Paul II, The Hundredth Year, #49
"... the peoples of the earth ... are called to build relationships of solidarity and cooperation among themselves, as befits members of the one human family."
Benedict XVI, World Day for Peace, 1 January 2008
"Learning to practice the virtue of solidarity means that ‘loving our neighbor' has global dimensions in an interdependent world."
Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions, U.S. Bishops
The solidarity which binds all people together as members of a common family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger, misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary human rights. The nations of the world are becoming more and more dependent on one another and it will not be possible to preserve a lasting peace so long as glaring economic and social imbalances persist.
John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, #157
Thoughts for your consideration
On this Holy Family Sunday, the scriptures invite us to think big and to have a big faith and a broad vision, no matter how impossible or difficult things seem to be. Abraham and Sarah are childless and landless, but they are invited to believe that great things will happen and a great nation will come about. Mary and Joseph bring an ordinary infant into the temple, and Simeon and Anna can see that something great is going on "a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."
We may each feel that we are just ordinary individuals with little power to do anything, but our faith tells us that great things can happen. We can make a difference, we can act with righteousness, and we can do what is right and be a light to the world. Even our ordinary family life can make a difference in the world.
We may feel that there is little we can do to make a difference in the face of social injustice and overwhelming problems. We have feel that we have no control over the forces of our economy and the developing recession. We may feel that the forces that create wars and violence are unstoppable. We may feel that the rights of the poor and powerless will never be respected. We may feel that woman and children will never be treated as they should be. However, as "the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him," so we can grow in strength and wisdom and put into practice the challenge of our social teaching. We can do great things and live prophetic lives in our 21st Century.
Think big and have faith!
In the second reading from the letter to the Colossians we are reminded of the need for those virtues which are the very opposite of violence and oppression. "Put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another." These virtues are the key if we are to achieve the healing we desire in our families and in the global human family. [If the Holy Family had got stuck in their hatred or anger over the events of their story, they would have never been free enough to go on to Nazareth and start anew.] Salvation is impossible without forgiveness and reconciliation.
A note on the longer version of the second reading from Colossians: Many may prefer to use the reading from Hebrews or shorter version because of various problematic interpretations about wives being submissive to their husbands in the longer version. This line taken out of context has been improperly used to justify acts of violence against women. It is important to keep in mind what was written by the Bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family Life in their document "When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence against Women."
As a Church, one of the most worrying aspects of the abuse practiced against women is the use of biblical texts, taken out of context, to support abusive behavior. Counselors report that both abused women and their batterers use scripture passages to justify their behavior. Abused women say, "I can't leave this relationship. The Bible says it would be wrong." Abusive men say, "The Bible says my wife should be submissive to me." They take the biblical text and distort it to support their right to batter. As bishops, we condemn the use of the Bible to condone abusive behavior. A correct reading of the Scriptures leads people to a relationship based on mutuality and love. Again, John Paul II describes it accurately: "In the ‘unity of the two,' man and woman are called from the beginning not only to exist ‘side by side' or ‘together,' but they are also called to exist mutually one for the other."
Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group
When your faith is strongest and you are trying to think big, what social changes would you like to see happen in our world?
Outside of your immediate family, who are the people with whom you feel most in solidarity? How is this solidarity express in your actions?
The World Refugee Survey 2008 reports that there are more than 14 million refugees worldwide. "In the years following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, more than 2 million Iraqi people fled to neighboring countries. Another 2.2 million people were internally displaced.
Actions - Links
Fighting Poverty to Build Peace Go to http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20081208_xlii-world-day-peace_en.html to read the message of John Paul II for the World Day of Peace for 1 January 2009.
National Migration Week (January 4 to 10, 2009) is celebrated annually to focus on the needs of migrants and refugees. The theme this year is "Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice." For more info, go to the site of the NCCB/USCC Office for Migration and Refugee Services: http://www.usccb.org/mrs/nmw.shtml
Prayers of Intercession
Response: Lord, guide us to become a family of peace.
For all our families, we pray....
For families experiencing difficulties like poverty, unemployment, violence, or abuse, we pray....
For our local church and for the church throughout the world, we pray....
For those parts of the church experiencing persecution, division, or even violence, we pray....
For our nation and all the nations of the world, we pray....
For all nations trapped by war, violence, terrorism, division, debt, poverty, or oppression of any kind, we pray....
For our planet earth and all its creatures, we pray....
For our planet as it deals with the challenges of climate change and human exploitation of our resources, we pray....
- Ø The following is a "Prayer for a New Society" from Pax Christi USA, 1995
All-nourishing God, your children cry for help
Against the violence of our world:
Where children starve for bread and feed on weapons;
Starve for vision and feed on drugs;
Starve for love and feed on videos;
Starve for peace and die murdered in our streets.
Creator God, timeless preserver of resources,
Forgive us for the gifts that we have wasted.
Renew for us what seems beyond redemption;
Call order and beauty to emerge again from chaos.
Convert our destructive power into creative service;
Help us to heal the woundedness of our world.
Liberating God, release us from the demons of violence.
Free us today from the disguised demon of deterrence
That puts guns by our pillows and missiles in our skies.
Free us from all demons that blind and blunt our spirits;
Cleanse us from all justifications for violence and war;
Open our narrowed hearts to the suffering and the poor.
Abiding God, loving renewer of the human spirit,
Unfold our violent fists into peaceful hands:
Stretch our sense of family to include our neighbors;
Stretch our senses of neighbor to include our enemies;
Until our response to you finally respects and embraces
All creation as precious sacraments of your presence.
Hear the prayer of your starving children. Amen.