Gospel Reflections

Feast of the Holy Family

Luke 2:41-51

Feast Day Reflection by Sister Magdalen Lawler

Published: December 27, 2015

Read Luke 2:41-51

Each year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival,... Read More…


Holy FamilyIn 1342 Simone Martini painted this striking image of the Holy Family. It is displayed in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England. It shows the moment when Jesus returned to his parents after the loss in the Temple. Mary reproaches Jesus with a questioning outstretched hand. The book on her lap has the words inscribed; “My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.” Joseph frowns and looks towards the teenager, and with a gesture towards Mary, points out her distress. Jesus has the slightly rebellious look of the modern teen with arms folded defensively across his body. It seems that in the 14th century, Martini has captured some of the realities of family life that are common in most families.

As I think about family and family life, I share with you what is uppermost in my mind after the Paris terror in the moving words of a bereaved husband and father. In this case, it is the mother who is lost:

I will not grant you the gift of my hatred.

On Friday night you took an exceptional life-

the love of my life, - the mother of my son.

She was just as beautiful as when I fell

hopelessly in love with her twelve years ago.

If this God, for whom you kill, made us in

His image, every bullet in the body of my wife

is one more wound in His heart.

We are just two now, my son and me,

but we are stronger than all the armies in the world.

He is barely 17 months old, but he will eat his little meals

and we will play together, as usual,

and for his whole life this little boy

will threaten you by being happy and free.

And no, you will not have his hatred either.

      -Antoine Leiris, about his wife, Helene Muyal RIP and their little son.

These words brought tears to my eyes as I read them on a train journey a few days after the attack on Paris. I asked myself how I could write about family when I left mine more than 55 years ago to become a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. It was not an easy decision but it was as nothing when I consider the words of Antoine Leiris. He displays a profound inner courage in the face of unbelievable loss.  There are aspects of closeness and intimacy in a family that we, as Sisters, never really experience. It is part of the living out of a vow that binds us to everyone in a special way, but leaves us to be with God alone. Our only strength is with our God and so we need to ask God for an end to family suffering in our present time.

PRAYER:

So many families are torn apart at this time in our world’s history.

We pray for them as they lead their children across deserts, mountains and treacherous seas in order to bring them to freedom and hope.

We invoke the aid of the Holy Family of Jesus, exiled in Egypt, and bewildered at times by his mission, as many families today lose loved ones and despair of finding a place of peace and a haven for their children to grow and flourish.

We pray also for our Church as together we seek to bring Mercy and Compassion to families who struggle with the realities of intimate living in our troubled world. At the beginning of this Year of Mercy we ask Mary and Joseph to be with us and to intercede with Jesus for all who are in need. May his Holy Spirit rest on the Church and make her like Mary, the Mother of Mercy. AMEN

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