May 2007 - Volume 11, Issue 10

The Saving Power Of A Family

Msgr. Frank Wissel

Image of a paper cut-out familyThe concepts of Christianity and the concepts of the family are inseparably intertwined. All Christian ideas are family ideas, and all of our Christian language is family language.

We call God our Father, we call ourselves his children and we call other people our brothers and sisters. We cannot think or talk of our faith without the terminology of the family.

Christianity is not simply religion. It is a religion saturated with family life. This dates back to the very beginning of our faith. It all got started with a family – a man named Joseph, a woman named Mary and a baby named Jesus.

There is a Gospel reading that finds this family in the temple in Jerusalem. While they were there, an old man named Simeon appeared on the scene. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would live to see the Messiah. And somehow, he knew that this baby was the one. He took the child in his arms and said to God, "Now, master, you can dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have witnessed your saving deed..."

To all outward appearances, it was such an ordinary event. Mary and Joseph were simply doing what thousands of other Jewish couples had been doing for centuries. They were presenting their baby to the Lord, as directed by the law of Moses. Yet Simeon saw in this a saving power that was and is and always will be the hope of the world.

That scene in the temple symbolized the difference between things that are temporal and things that are eternal, things that pass away and things that do not. There were obvious and obsessing realities when Simeon held that little baby in his arms.

No doubt age had dimmed the physical eyes of that old man, but his spiritual vision was keen and penetrating. He could see a difference between temporal things that were soon to pass away and eternal realities that were destined to abide.

Mary and Joseph and Jesus are better known today than they were then. Little by little others have come to see what Simeon saw – the saving power of God, working in and through Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Today, no less than that day, we are absorbed in the obsessing realities of our time. They are critically important. Hostile military machines face one another all over the world. Dictators make daily headlines in the newspapers. In many countries democracies are struggling to get on their feet. Racial and religious animosities continue.

But like Caesar and his empire, all this will pass some day and be forgotten. And the world will always remember that peasant couple and their little baby. They represent the things that endure – the family.

That scene in the temple also symbolizes the amazing victory of small beginnings over great obstacles. From our vantage point in history, we can look back and see the significance of it. We need the spiritual insight like that of Simeon.

How desperately you and I need the kind of insight today. If we could borrow the eyes of Simeon, we would see from afar the victory of small beginnings over those great obstacles. That vision would fortify our souls with the long struggles that lie ahead. The amazing victory of small beginnings over great obstacles is a story that can be told over and over again.

Photo of a familyLet us never forget that God's saving deed centered on a family. It was small; it was poor; but God used that family to reveal himself to the world. That is where He started his saving work, and He still starts there today.

His vision for the world must become a reality; it must become more and more real in more and more homes. Our family is more than just family. Our home is more than just a place to live. It is a part of God's saving work. The hope of the world's redemption has always centered on the home. In today's society we need to develop it more and more.