Homily for the Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas
As I reflected on this Gospel yesterday, I found myself really drawn to pray with the ordinariness of the Holy Family. There was nothing extraordinary about Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to be dedicated in the Temple after his birth. It is something that is prescribed in the Book of Exodus: every firstborn who opens the womb is offered to God (Ex 13:2; 13:12). But there is something extraordinary about the ordinary.
What the Holy Family is showing us by doing the ordinary tasks that every faithful Jewish family completed is how we are called to embrace humility and obedience. Mary and Joseph knew who Jesus was – the angels told them, first of all, but they also believed what had been promised because of their faith. They knew that Jesus was the Messiah. They didn’t necessarily know how that was going to play out in the end, but they knew what Jesus’ ultimate purpose was.
In order for Him to accomplish that mission, it was their responsibility to raise their son according to what the Jewish faith taught. In our Gospel, we have an example of how Mary and Joseph do that. They humbly submit themselves to completing the various purification and dedication rites in the Temple. By being obedient to what the Law had prescribed, Mary and Joseph show that they understand what their purpose is as the parents of Jesus. They taught Jesus and, by extension, are teaching us the importance of humility and obedience for our faith.
The lesson that they teach us is this: humility is the cornerstone of living the fullness of the Christian life. If we want to be able to imitate Jesus in all that we do, we have to recognize that our lives, first of all, are not our own. Just as the Lord had a mission on earth to accomplish, so, too, do we have a mission. The Father has called each of us to a specific vocation. The primary vocation for all of us is holiness, but that is brought to realization by living our lives in the way that God intended. But we can only know what that mission is if we submit ourselves and humbly follow the Lord, which takes opening our hearts to receive His word. We have to listen to Him. We can’t simply do the things that we want to do. We have to follow where the Lord leads. And that often times means putting aside our own desires.
Our First Parents, Adam and Eve, fell into sin because of pride and it resulted in their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Mary and Joseph, in their extraordinary ordinariness, put into motion the healing remedy for that sin and it starts with obedience and humility. So a point of reflection for us today might be asking ourselves: where in our lives are we still clinging to our own desires rather than being obedient to what God desires for our lives? If we truly want to follow Him more closely, we have to learn to listen to Him and to be guided by the Holy Spirit. That can only happen if we are taking time in prayer each day. We can’t listen if we don’t know the Shepherd’s voice. So today, let’s take time to listen to the Lord and how He is calling us to do what is extraordinarily ordinary.