THE HOLY FAMILY
genesis 15:1-6, 21:1-3 or sirach 3:2-6; 12-14; hebrew 11:8, 11-12, 17-19 or colossians 3:12-21; luke 2:22-40
on 23 october 1983, a bomb explosion at the marine barracks in beirut killed 220 us marines and 21 other personnel, and wounded several others.
a few days later, paul kelly, marine corps commandant, visited the wounded in hospital. among them was corporal jeffrey nashton. he had suffered a broken leg, collapsed lungs, a crushed arm and a fractured skull. as kelly neared him, nashton motioned for a pen and piece of paper, wrote briefly, and passed the paper to his commandant. it had but two words: «semper fi» (always faithful), the motto of the marines.
with those two words nashton spoke for the millions who have remained faithful despite and in the face of adversity. later, nashton said he didn’t know why he did it, but his wife said: «he thought he was dying and he wanted to make contact with another marine, to tell him not to give up, not to lose faith.»
semper fi! two words which sum up the thrust of today’s readings, and speak for each character in them.
the first and second readings extol the faith of israel’s first family. GOD promises abraham many descendants. abraham, though old and childless, «put his faith in the LORD.» GOD asks abraham to leave his homeland, and to sacrifice his son. abraham is unconditionally and forever faithful.
the gospel recounts the faith of the holy family. joseph and mary, who present their son in the temple «just as it is written in the law of the LORD.» they did and would undergo difficult times, and their son—simeon tells them—«is destined for the fall and rise of many in israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.» they remain forever faithful.
simeon and anna are idealized portraits of the faithful remnant of israel awaiting the messiah’s coming.
semper fi! that’s the challenge to our families today… despite all the pressures, tensions and crises—political, economic, social and peer—we face.
further, we need to widen the boundaries of our family: the homeless, the sick and dying, the lonely, the battered, the drug addict, the prisoner… and the hindu/ muslim/ jew/ zoroastrian/ sikh/ jain/ buddhist/ atheist/ agnostic… are all children of GOD and members of our family.
will you and i remain faithful to GOD and to one another despite and in the face of troubles?