HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH
HOMILY THEME: “SIMEON WAS RIGHTEOUS AND DEVOUT, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT RESTED ON HIM. IT HAD BEEN REVEALED TO HIM THAT HE WOULD NOT SEE DEATH BEFORE HE HAD SEEN THE LORD’S MESSIAH. THERE WAS ALSO A PROPHETESS, ANNA. SHE WAS OF A GREAT AGE. SHE NEVER LEFT THE TEMPLE BUT WORSHIPPED THERE WITH FASTING AND PRAYER DAY AND NIGHT.” (Luke 2:25-25, 36-37)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon
It’s 16 years now that I’ve lived at St. Joseph Center, the assisted living and health care facility that we 35 Holy Cross religious call home and where I serve as chaplain. All older men (just 3 of us are under 70; one is over 100), one might imagine this to be a somewhat lethargic place, but, in fact, life here is vibrant as determined men confront the challenges of ageing. While there are those grump-ish days when arthritic joints collide with cold, damp weather, as well as those periods when souring depression holds a heart captive—more are the days marked by companionable gatherings when adventures of younger years are recounted (just a bit more heroic with each re-telling), laughter bubbling up as we elders face sunset’s promise of eternity.
Some months back, Br. Mark, our community director, related a kitchen conversation he overheard between Phil, that evening’s chef, and Doug, his assistant. Around a corner and out of sight, Br. Mark stiffened as an animated Phil told Doug, “Yeah, they’re old, ugly and waiting to die.” Horrified, Br. Mark quickly left the kitchen undetected to consider the perception these two employees held of the clientele they served. Relating the incident to me later in the day, Br. Mark was still a bit worked up. “I can’t get over it! Phil said we’re all old, ugly and waiting to die.”
Bubbling with laughter, I shared with him the real story. “Mark, Phil was telling me this morning about his fishing outing these past two days. He was up north somewhere salmon fishing. It’s spawning season, and the fish are old and worn out as they return to their place of birth to lay their eggs. Then within a few days, they die. That’s what Phil was talking about—old salmon, not old Brothers.”
On this Feast of the Holy Family, we are introduced to an elderly man who was waiting for the fulfillment of a prophecy—that he would see God’s anointed before his death. We also meet Anna. St. Luke wrote, “Simeon was righteous and devout, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. There was also a prophetess, Anna. She was of a great age. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day.” (Luke 2:25-25, 36-37)
In our Holy Cross religious family, we have vowed to care for one another within the family circle until our last earthly breath. And even then, we remain within that tight circle as our worn bodies are laid to rest in the community cemetery, row by row of us attesting to the bond of family.
As we celebrate today the Feast of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we reflect on our own family of origin. We hear about the faith of Simeon and Anna, two elders clinging to God as their earthly lives near the end. And we pray that our own lives might end as the salmon’s, our last energies spent bringing life to others.