Spiritual readings for Sunday 31st of December
25 December 2017 CGI news
Week of 25th December (reference: readings for Sunday 31st December)
Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph - Readings: 3 Cl, 12-21; Lk 2: 22-40
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus"
As on other occasions, in the Letter to the Colossians of this week, Saint Paul adds a theology class to the practical recommendations. As in other readings of Advent, Paul speaks of holiness, but in this letter, he addresses topics like forgiveness, the praise of God and the family life.
Paul begins with a strong message: "you are loved by God, you are his chosen saints". This gives us the tranquillity of being protected and chosen, but it also brings to us the responsibility to seek holiness, which must come through "sincere mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience". As we know, these "behavioural guidelines" are somehow present in what we call "Vincentian virtues", which are five: simplicity, humility, gentleness, mortification and zeal. On another occasion, we already reflected on these virtues so important for those who wish to follow the Vincentian charisma.
Later, Paul speaks of forgiveness. He asks that we "bear one another, forgiving each other", and adds a very important sentence: "as the Lord forgave you, you are also to forgive". Pope Francis, when he still was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, wrote in one of his books a wise quote: "only can forgive who had the experience of forgiveness". A child, who has never been forgiven for having done something usually wrong, can hardly have the feeling of forgiveness for others. Here, Paul tells us the same thing. He asks us to think about how many times the Lord has forgiven us and to see how good it was to feel the peace coming from this feeling. Thus, we will also be able to forgive those who have offended us and pass this peace on to others. In short, there cannot be holiness without forgiveness; there cannot be peace without forgetting definitively the evil that others do to us. When we forgive someone, we do become holier and we give to who has offended us the possibility of seeking holiness, because he feels the peace of our forgiveness.
Paul then goes to the practical advice about the family relations. "Wives, be caring to your husbands, as appropriate, in the Lord." Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, because that is pleasing to the Lord. Parents, do not intimidate your children, so that they do not become dispirited".
Here, it does not make much sense to find the literal meaning of the recommendations, which abide by the environment in which Jesus lived. Much more important than the letter is the spirit of the letter! Who is wife or husband knows how difficult it is, but at the same time rewarding, to always be attentive to the other, or always kind, even when sometimes our nature leads us to be bitter and impatient. Who is son or daughter, knows how difficult it is to obey the parents, because the son wants to show that he also has his self-esteem, his own ego. However, my experience shows that when the son becomes a father, he moves on to decide and to bring his children up exactly in the same way as his father or his mother, even if he tries to ignore this spiritual legacy. Who is a good father or a good mother knows that the biggest difficulty in the relationship with the children is to know how to be in a position of "loving detachment": not to overwhelm them with pampering, but let them learn by error, from their own experience. In the end, what matters is not so much what we do as spouses, children or parents, but the intention with which we do it. We know that we are going to make mistakes, because there is no a handbook of behaviour for spouses, children and parents, but we try to succeed, with the spiritual legacy of our parents, with our weaknesses and strengths, with our faith, in carrying out the plan of God for our family.
In fact, a crucial message of the Letter to the Colossians of this week is the injunction to be holy by doing everything in the name of the Lord: "whatever you do, in word or action, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ". This changes everything, because it puts us in a position of closeness to God. He gives us the spirit of strength and wisdom, and we do everything in His name. What enormous grace it is to feel the peace of this closeness!