|Feast of Thomas Becket John
First John 2:3-11
I am always moved by the Gospel stories illustrating the fidelity of the Holy Family in conscientiously observing Jewish liturgical rituals. Here Luke presents "the couple" bringing their first-born up to the temple in Jerusalem to be purified. Yes, to be purified. Given what Luke has already told us about Joseph, Mary and Jesus' conception we are astounded by the story. We can only imagine Mary and Joseph's personal closeness to God. But no degree of closeness to God ever exempted them in their own minds from faithfully observing the rituals of their religion. Mary and Joseph are first and foremost Jews, members of God's specially chosen people. From their identity as Jews flows their relationship to God and their personal holiness. Their child Jesus will imitate his parents in fidelity to his Jewish religious heritage.
What a lesson for our day! How easily our cultural individualism tempts us to disregard "institutional religion" by criticizing and ignoring its tradition and authority. How often we are tempted to exempt ourselves from Christian liturgical observances and, at best, to substitute personal devotion. We forget our relationship to God flows from our membership in the Church through baptism and that our personal holiness flows from this identity.
During the twelve days of Christmas the Holy Family can become our
model for integrating personal holiness with a deeper commitment to our
Christian heritage. Yes, and St. Thomas Becket also, martyred
in 1170 in his cathedral by knights of the English king for fidelity to
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