Friday, December 30, 2011

In Gratitude and Hope: Feast of the Holy Family

“Anna gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem..." – Lk 2:39

How interesting that the Church chooses the same Gospel reading for these past two days. To me, it is full of hope. Hope in a promise to be fulfilled. We see the old Simeon “awaiting the consolation of Israel” praising God when he saw the baby Jesus being presented in the temple. We hear Anna, the 84 year-old and long time widow, giving thanks to God when she saw in the child Jesus the fulfillment of God’s age-old promise to save her people. We witness a poor couple, Mary and Joseph, entrusting their child to God. This gesture of consecration deepens their “yes” to trust in the divine promise despite struggling and understanding little of God’s plan. They become the Holy Family as they place their hope in God.

These days visiting and celebrating with families, friends, and the communities to which I belong have been full of joy for me. However, as I spent time with them, I also hear much pain, suffering, confusion and hardships. Much of these trails and tribulations I cannot alleviate. However, as I try to be present and listen without judgment, without fixing, without dismissing, or patronizing, something mysterious begins to happen. When I try my best to care, to listen attentively, to sit with people in their misery and pain, while trusting that God is present-with-us, suffering-with-us, laboring to love us in our struggles, something surprising happens. Albeit painstakingly slow, God happens. When we can lift up our struggles to God and become the safe place where people can present their vulnerabilities, hurts, and fears to God, hope is born. As Mary and Joseph presented their child Jesus to God in the temple, along with their hopes and challenges, they elicit hope in Simeon and Anna, who have been waiting for a long time. Similarly, as we struggle to trust God’s promise, we become the contagious place or threshold of hope. Our gratitude can overflow in hope like Simeon and Anna.

It’s so interesting that God chooses the human family (and community) as the school of hope and gratitude. We have a lot to be thankful for our families. Yet, through the struggles in our families and communities, we can also learn to bear hope.

How am I grateful for my family/community? How can I place greater hope in God regarding my family? With whom can I be present in gratitude and hope, even with pain and suffering?

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