The Feast of the Holy Family brings to my mind a conversation I once had with a young woman. She was a well-trained medical professional about to begin an adventure serving the poor in Peru. “I love being here,” she said, “but I have come to realize what I really want to do.”
Greatly surprised, I asked, “What?”
“Father,” she said, “what I really want to do is get married and have babies!”
Although on one level I was disappointed (the need for a well trained nurse was great), still I wanted to be supportive. I asked, “Have you met someone?”
“No,” she said, “I don’t even have anyone on the horizon.”
“Well,” I said, “I will pray that God sends you the right man – someone who will love you deeply, but something even more important than that.”
“What?” she asked.
“That even more than he loves you, he will love God.”
She thought about that and said, “yes.” When she returned to the United States she met an excellent man. They married and have three wonderful children.
Today’s readings tell about people who deeply desired family – but who put God first. We see it most remarkably in the Old Testament. Elkanah and Hannah prayed for years that God would give them a child. When Hannah finally bore a son in her old age, you would think she would cling to him, never let him out of her sight. But not so. After weaning young Samuel (i.e. at the age of three) she took him to the temple and entrusted him to the priest Eli. She knew that God had destined Samuel to be “perpetual nazirite.” Her words are powerful:
”I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord.”
The Bible then states very tersely that Hannah left Samuel there (I Sam 1:28).
The Virgin Mary also knew that she had to entrust her only son totally to God. It was not easy. She in no way could predict what the sacrifice would mean. Today we see her undergoing three days of anguish – a foreshadowing of what she would experience when her son was crucified. She and Joseph searched for the boy and finally found him in his Father’s House (Lk 2:50).
Jesus then gave an example for all children by being “obedient to them” (v.51). For her part Mary simply “kept all these things in her heart.” Like her, we are called not to grasp God’s will, but to ponder it in our hearts – and ultimately to surrender to it.
That is the key to family.
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
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Praying at West Seattle Planned Parenthood
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Bulletin (Christmas Blessings, Burn Victim, Sharon Carriere Memorial Fund)
A Different Experience (David Morrison responds to New York Times article advocating homosexual marriage)