"They took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, ... in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord." (Lk. 2:22-40)
As we celebrate Kwanzaa's second day, an essential practice in this tradition is greeting the community with these words, "Harbari Gani," which means, "What's the news?" The response is "Kujichagulia," which means "self-determination" to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves."
The first Sunday of Christmas has an important theme as well, "the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph." Traditionally, after the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world, the Church identifies this family unit, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, as a "Holy Family." And rightly so because Jesus is Holy, which makes this family Holy.
Interestingly, compelling is the synchronization of the tradition of Kwanzaa and the Holy Family. Reflecting on "self-determination," the Church defined, named, created, and spoke into existence a powerful image for Christian families to emulate. This Holy Family is our model of holiness. Remember, Jesus taught that we must strive for holiness like his Heavenly Father. For this reason, Pope Francis' recent Apostolic letter, Patris Corde, "With a Father's Heart," announcing 2021 as the year of St. Joseph the Worker, is apropos. Pope Francis said:
"Fathers are not born but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child."
With his spouse, Mary, and the baby, Jesus, Joseph the Worker, who incidentally was not Jesus' biological father, displayed a father’s heart. Joseph cared for his son by accepting the responsibility to attend to his family when prompted by the Holy Spirit. His commitment to prayer and family traditions made him a man who perceived his calling. He led his family to Jerusalem's temple area for worship, similar to today when men lead their families to church for worship and prayer.
Once in the temple, Joseph the Worker and his family received a blessing from Simeon, a righteous and devout man. When Simeon walked into the temple, the scripture said the Holy Spirit was present. Simeon thanked God and pronounced this blessing on the Holy Family: "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted —and you yourself a sword will pierce— so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
In today's Gospel, Joseph's self-determination clearly shows that he desired to name, define, speak, and create a Holy Family. Nothing would impede his quest for a Holy Family. Not even the financial hardship of having his child born in a stable would hinder Joseph's maturation in imaging a "Holy father" for a "Holy child." Pope Francis said that "Joseph defines an evocative image of a shadow. In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way."
In the year 2021, St. Joseph the Worker, men must continue consecrating their spouse, sons, and daughters with the Word of God, making their families Holy like our Heavenly Father is Holy. St. Joseph, pray for us.
Pope Francis Apostolic letter, Patris Corde, "With a Father's Heart." http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/papa-francesco-lettera-ap_20201208_patris-corde.html
Author: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, MACS, Facilitator University of Dayton