Studying God’s Word

1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28

1 John 3:1-2, 21-24

Luke 2:41-52 [17C]

The Sunday celebration of the feast of the Holy Family occurs during the Christmas season. Each of the readings focus on various aspects that define families governed by faith: sacrifice, kinship, and defining moments. The first reading comes from the First Book of Samuel. As the title implies, the opening chapters of the book are devoted to the life of Samuel who served as Israel’s final judge (during the “age of the Judges,” a period lasting about two hundred years, 1200–1020 BC), and who also functioned as a prophet. In fact, Samuel is commonly referred to as Israel’s final judge and prophet. The remainder of First Samuel and all of Second Samuel focus on Kings David and Solomon during the period of Israel’s United Monarchy (1020–922 BC). We hear in today’s reading the extraordinary sacrifice of Samuel’s mother, Hannah. Barren for most of her life, Hannah prayed to the Lord for a child. The Lord heard Hannah’s prayer, and she conceived and gave birth to Samuel. Overcome with gratitude to the Lord, and after Samuel was weaned, Hannah offered up her only son to God as a “perpetual nazirite.” (Nazir, in Hebrew, means “set apart as sacred,” “dedicated”). Samuel grew up to be one of the most important transitional figures in Israel’s history, leading and guiding Israel from a people and land governed by judges to a period ruled by a king under a united monarchy. Hannah’s sacrifice within her own family proved to be an extraordinary gift to Israel.  
In the second reading from the First Letter of John, we hear John refer to believers within his community as “children of God.” This kinship language for fellow Christians is heard throughout the letter. John also mentions that “the world” does not recognize, affirm, or understand the idea that Christians were “children of God.” John’s anti-world sentiment probably developed from persecutions that the Johannine community faced in their attempts to live out the Christian message within the larger Roman society. John encourages his community to turn inward for an examination of conscience rather than look to the world for affirmation: “If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask.” The Gospel reading is the final episode of Luke’s “infancy narrative” (Lk 1:5—2:52). The tradition of Jesus in the Temple at age twelve was likely remembered because it was such a defining moment in the life of the Holy Family. The annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the celebration of the feast of Passover was part of the ordinary rhythm of family life for ancient Palestinian Jews. Each year all the villagers of Nazareth (and surrounding villages in Galilee) who were able traveled in caravan nearly one hundred miles south to the city of Jerusalem. Many Christians are familiar with the details of the story of Jesus “lost” in the Temple as a young boy. After a weeklong celebration of Passover in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph mistakenly leave Jesus behind as they traveled back home to Nazareth. They return and frantically search for the boy Jesus in Jerusalem. Upon finding him, Jesus responds, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Confused and uncertain about Jesus’ reaction, Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph “did not understand what he said to them.” But Luke also reports that “his mother kept all these things in her heart.” The readings for the feast of Holy Family teach us that sacrifice, kinship, and defining moments unite us as a family of faith and a community of believers.
Dr. Daniel J. Scholz