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Sunday 31st December

Happy New Year

My sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,

God calls us as family. We begin our life in family. We form families, either biological or in other ways. This basic relationship of the biological family with mother, father and children is given to us throughout our Scriptures and is the basic of civil society.

Today this relationship of family is being challenged on all sides and the divine rate is high and many people spend their life in multiple relationships without every marrying. Our civil society is losing entirely the meaning of family as we find it in Sacred Scripture.

We must not be distracted! Instead, we are challenged to continue to encourage the basic reality of a family with mother, father and children. We are invited to encourage marriage between a man and a woman—but always as a sacrament, a sacred bond lived out in Jesus Christ and in His Church.

The first reading today is from the Book of Genesis and gives us an insight into the life of Abraham. Abraham left his own country to follow the Lord. The Lord promised him descendants so many that they would be equal to the number of the stars. Abraham and Sarah get old without ever having a child. Abraham still trusts in God but wonders how God might bring about the fulfillment of His promise. Finally Isaac is born—after it was really impossible—and then Abraham is asked to sacrifice him. Abraham is put to the test in so many ways!

The focus of the reading, however, is not so much the trials of Abraham but the faith of Abraham that never wavered. Modern Christians face many challenges today and one of them is believing in the family as given to us in the Scriptures and not wavering from that idea of the family, no matter what civil society tells us. Embracing a scriptural view of the family never means rejecting those who don’t accept Scriptures. It does mean, however, being strong enough in faith to insist that there is a God and that God calls us in certain ways and that our Scriptures clearly teach about family and family life.

The second reading comes from the Letter to the Hebrews and again emphasizes the faith of Abraham and the challenge to remain faithful when everything else looks crazy! We are invited to cling to the Lord and to trust in the Word of the Lord. This will mean that, like Abraham, we will look crazy sometimes. Imagine the friends of Abraham over the many years when he kept saying that God would give him descendants! They must have given him a bad time! Or surely they thought of him as simply a crazy old man—perhaps a good man but still not living in reality and accepting that he and his wife would never have a child.

The Gospel is from Saint Luke today and is about the presentation of Jesus in the temple. Here we gave Mary and Joseph presenting their child and two old people in the temple, Simeon and Anna, who were waiting for salvation, were able to see in Jesus the fulfillment of the prophecies. Incredible.

So from the three readings today, we can commit ourselves to defending the scriptural understanding of family. We don’t need to attack anyone, only live this mystery clearly in our own lives and speak clearly when asked. We can also commit ourselves to understanding Scripture so that, like Anna and Simeon, we won’t miss the fulfillment of Scripture when it happens.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip Monastery of Christ in the Desert