Preparing for Mass on Holy Family Sunday (1st Sunday of Christmas)

We read Scripture not so much to learn about other people, back then, and over there, but to learn how better to be ourselves, here, now.

We read Scripture not as professional scholars narrowly focussed on the text but as people who listen for the voice of the living God. This is not to diminish the role of professional scholars, those technicians of text can serve our understanding of scripture and faith and religion in so many ways, but the distinction is made to highlight what is most central about the role of scripture for the lives of the faithful.

Through these inspired writings the living Lord speaks directly to us – heart to heart – although admittedly the living Lord makes this direct and personal connection with us on the slant, through the prism of song and narrative and all the rest. And he speaks to lead us to a safer better place – with him and with each other. He speaks to make a difference – and we are called to listen ready for that difference to be made, in us and by us.

The first reading this Sunday comes from what scholars call the Deuterocanonical books, – books that are not, now, in the Bible of the Jewish people, but were books in the Bible of Greek speaking Jews (and Christians) before the destruction of the Temple and the events that followed.

First reading: Ecclesiasticus 3:3-7,14-17

(NB the text in bold and in the ‘quote sections’ is what we hear on Sunday, the rest is the immediate biblical text from which the Lectionary text is extracted)

Children, listen to me your father,
do what I tell you, and so be safe;
for the Lord honours the rights of father in his children
and upholds the rights of a mother over, her sons.

Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins,
he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.
Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own,
he shall be heard on the day when he prays.
long life comes to him who honours his father,
he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord.

He serves his parents as he does his Lord.
Respect your father in deed as well as word,
so that blessing may come on you from him;
since a father’s blessing makes the houses of his children firm,
while a mother’s curse tears up their foundations.
Do not make a boast of disgrace overtaking your father,
your father’s disgrace reflects no honour on you;
for a man’s honour derives from the respect shown to his father,
and a mother held in dishonour is a reproach to her children.

My son, support your father in his old age,
do not grieve him during his life.
Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy,
do not despise him in your health and strength;
for kindness to a father shall not be forgotten
but will serve reparation for your sins.


In the days of affliction it will be remembered of you,
like frost in sunshine, your sins will melt away.
The man who deserts his father is no better than a blasphemer,
and whoever angers his mother is accursed of the Lord.

My son, be gentle in carrying out your business,
and you will be better loved than a lavish giver.
The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly,
and then you will find favour with the Lord;
for great though the power of the Lord is,
he accepts the homage of the humble.

Do not try to understand things that are too difficult for you,
or try to discover what is beyond your powers.
Concentrate on what has been assigned you,
you have no need to worry over mysteries.

Do not meddle with things that are beyond you;
what you have been taught already exceeds the scope of the human mind.
For many have been misled by their own presumption
and wrong-headed opinions have warped their ideas.

A stubborn heart will come to a bad end at last,
and whoever loves danger will perish in it.
A stubborn heart is weighed down with troubles,
There is no cure for the proud man’s malady,
Since an evil growth has taken root in him.
The heart of a sensible man will reflect on parables,
an attentive ear is the sage’s dream.

He who fears the Lord respects his parents
The Lord honours the father in his children,
and upholds the rights of a mother over her sons.
Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins,
he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.
Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own,
he shall be heard on the day when he prays.
Long life comes to him who honours his father,
he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord.
My son, support your father in his old age,
do not grieve him during his life.
Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy,
do not despise him in your health and strength;
for kindness to a father shall not be forgotten
but will serve as reparation for your sins.

Acknowledgements

  • Photo (c) 2017, Allen Morris. The death of St Joseph. Notre Dame de Versailles, Versailles, France.
  • Commentary: (c) 2019, Allen Morris
  • Scripture  readings  from  the  Jerusalem  Bible  are  published  and  copyright  ©  1966,  1967  and  1968  by  Darton,  Longman  &  Todd,  Ltd

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