THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH, CYCLE A

Readings & Background

First Reading: Sirach 3:2-7,12-14 Honor to one’s parents will be rewarded.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 128:1-2,3,4-5 Happy are those who follow the Lord’s ways.

Second Reading: Colossians 3:12-21 (or short form, Colossians 3:12-17) Do all things in the name of Jesus and give thanks to God.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:13-15,19-23 In a dream, God tells Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect Jesus from King Herod.

Background on the Gospel Reading:

Today we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. As we do so, our Gospel invites us to consider Joseph’s protection of Jesus in the face of danger. Just as in the announcement of Jesus’ birth, an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. The angel warns him of Herod’s plans to harm Jesus. Joseph follows the command of the angel and takes Joseph and Mary to Egypt, returning only after receiving word in another dream that it was safe to do so.

This feast is part of the Christmas season, so we should look at today’s Gospel in the context of what Scripture tells us about Jesus’ birth. Today’s reading is found in the Gospel of Matthew, following the story of the visit of the Magi. Recall that Matthew’s story about the birth of Jesus makes Joseph the primary character. Among Matthew’s themes in this infancy narrative is Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the messiah. Indeed, the story of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt recalls the story of Moses in the Book of Exodus.

It should also be noted that today’s reading omits the verses that recount Herod’s order of the massacre of the infant boys in and around Bethlehem. We mark this event on the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28.

These events remind us of the difficult reality of Jesus’ birth. While the story of the Magi’s visit will be recalled in our liturgy on the Feast of the Epiphany, our Christmas celebration is made more sober by the recollection that not everyone received Christ’s birth with joy or obedience.

Herod’s jealousy and malice contrast with Joseph’s obedience to the words of the angel. The Holy Family’s escape to Egypt and the massacre that Jesus is saved from remind us of the struggles and sacrifices that are required as preparation for God’s salvation.