Readings for The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 or Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3
Psalm 128:1-5 or 105:1-6, 8-9
Colossians 3:12-21 or Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19
 Luke 2:22-40

In the documentary “The Social Dilemma,” former executives and technology engineers from social media companies like Google, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram discuss issues around social media addiction, censorship and the effective spread of misinformation.

Viewers are introduced to ways in which social media engineers manipulate information so advertisers hold users in attention traps and increase the amounts of time subscribers engage in social media activities. A chilling part of the film shows how technology systems have taken control of human choices and even our closest family relationships.

In a dramatized scene, a family of five sits down to eat dinner and we see three teenage children with cellphones in their hands. The mother asks the children to put away their phones so the family can have a normal conversation around the dinner table. To ensure her children are not distracted during dinner the mother places their phones in a locked plastic box.

A dramatic scenario unfolds as one of the teenagers smashes open the locked box and rushes out of the room with her phone in hand. As chaos ensues each family member leaves their half-eaten dinner till one child sits alone at the family table as the scene fades.

The future of civilization passes through the family, noted St. John Paul II. The family is the basic cell of society and the first school of love, virtues and human flourishing. It is the virtues of family life that the author of Sirach praises in the first reading. Honoring one’s father and mother is commended as pleasing to God and an act of justice. As the psalmist prays, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.”

In the Gospel, Mary and Joseph bring their divine son Jesus to the Temple in accordance with the Jewish custom of presenting firstborn males. And Simeon, a righteous and devout Israelite, recognizes the awesome inbreaking of God’s revelation into history and responds with a canticle of praise. He takes the baby Jesus into his arms and blesses God.

The Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph celebrates the holiness and the unique mission of the family made holy by the son of God who took flesh in the womb of Mary and was raised by his parents, Mary and Joseph, in their home in Nazareth.

We are reminded that Jesus was born and raised in the poverty of a humble family rich in the virtues of faith, hope and love. Through baptism we become part of God’s family as we strive to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in the Church, the family of families.

As this tumultuous year draws to a close, we take our place among the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph where we find peace, joy and hope. And as a new year begins, God’s word invites us to let the peace of Christ fill our hearts and to be ever thankful to God as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”

Reflection Question: How has God been present and active in my life this year?

Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.