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Wisdom, nurtured and grown

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Jonjee C. Sumpaico, S.J. (The Philippine Star) - December 31, 2017 - 12:00am

On this last day of 2017, the Church celebrates the feast of the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It is a special feast, as it celebrates God-being-with-us through the first community that all humans know of – the family! Though we may have different experiences in being with our families, we have a model of Jesus’ family which is given to us in faith.  It is a model that all Christians, and even all creation may follow by putting God at the center of our lives.

When we read the Gospel today, we see Jesus presented in the temple in Jerusalem. It was customary for all first-born Jewish sons to be consecrated to the Lord and to offer sacrifice in accordance to the Law of Moses. But what is interesting in these accounts are the prophecies given by two old people who were waiting for the coming of the Messiah in the temple grounds.

Simeon, an upright and devout man, took the child Jesus in his arms and thanked God for being able to see with his own eyes the salvation prepared for all nations. Anna, who waited at the temple day and night in her old age, spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem. These two people bore witness to the presence of God by their patient daily waiting.

As Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph, he mentioned his prophecy to Jesus’ mother: “You see this child: he is destined for the fall and the rise of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.”

Being with Jesus will not therefore be an easy journey. Following Jesus means that one will also share in the hurtful opposition that the Savior will endure. As one grows in truth and wisdom, there will be much resistance to one’s God-given freedom. As people begin to see the light in Jesus, there will be others who will choose to remain in the dark. People choose to live in darkness for many reasons. It may be more comfortable for them. It may mean less effort to adapt. It may mean that one will not walk the road less travelled by.

What is this message telling us today? What happens when we listen to the Gospel values and live it out? What are the consequences of faithfully putting Jesus at the center of our families – at the center of one’s life?

In this moment in time when the values of truth and freedom are challenged by much propaganda and even fear, the more we are asked to seek the truth. Public institutions are forced to turn a blind eye to what harms the present and future generations. As they present much untruth, the more our families must remain witness to the endeavor of truth telling and truth living.

Truth sets people free. Authentic truth sets people authentically free. Indeed it is now more difficult to discern the truth as there are many voices claiming the truth. In faith, discernment comes in by listening to the Spirit of Jesus in our lives. By putting Jesus at center, we may be able to hear and listen to the voices in life that speak to us, as well as the endured silences that we fail to listen to at times. Rebecca Solnit points out that in “redefining whose voice is valued, we redefine our society and its values.” To promote a hearing of all the voices in  a nation’s on-going story, and to nurture our youth, we need to equip them with the skill of discernment and the drive to put into action the values that they hold. For in the root of things, it is not just a battle of voices, but a battle of values that will win the hearts and minds of the next generation. To celebrate humanity is to celebrate the values that make it flourish – that is to seek the voices that add to the value of becoming fully alive in our shared humanity.

 Not being able to discern what is true from what is not endangers one’s autonomy and freedom – an essential ingredient in life lived to the full!  Coming from her experience of world conflict, Hannah Arendt points out that the “ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi nor the declared communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.”

Do we still value the voice of Jesus in our lives? For if we do so, we may have to choose the path of fidelity that the Holy Family took. We may have to nurture our children by teaching them how to pray unceasingly so that they may be familiar with the Spirit of God that moves in our hearts and in our lives. We may have to form our children to become people of service for others and with others by making them more involved in the community. In nurturing a truthful generation, we may have to be better witnesses by being able to listen to the sentiments that our children have.

What the older generation can do is to assure the younger generation that their path to truth seeking and truth telling is of great worth. The older generation may be able to foster this endeavor by striving to be persons of integrity, trust, and be accessible to the young. It means that one has to be accountable to the values that one teaches. It means one has to be humble to admit that sometimes one does not know or understand.

As the child Jesus was entrusted to Mary and Joseph, he grew into maturity filled with wisdom and God’s favor. We ask for the same love and grace for our children as we enter a new year – that they may see Jesus as friend and model of our lives.

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