top of page

The Example of the Holy Family

00:00 / 19:07

4 Feb 2024


Luke 2:22-40

The Holy Family

Some Context

- We find ourselves forty days after the birth of Christ.

- Law of Moses required mother of male child to offer a purification sacrifice, could only be done at this point at the Temple in Jerusalem (Lev. 12:1-8). One lamb and turtledove/pigeon or two turtledoves/pigeons.

- Ritual sacrifice of an animal in place of sinner to make atonement for transgression before God.

Hence, verse 22, ‘…when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.’

- The sacrifice of the Law was for the mother only and the son did not need to be present.

- Perhaps an echo here of Hannah offering Samuel to the Lord for a special service to God.

Verse 23 indicates a second sacrifice, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.”

- Relates to Exodus 13. All firstborn male creatures are to be sacrificed to the Lord. All firstborn male sons are to redeemed – ie parents to pay five shekels for the child when a month old.

- This was a reminder of the Lord’s redeeming Israel from Egypt and saving firstborn from a similar fate.

Finally, verse 24 indicates that the Holy Family gave a sacrifice permitted to poor families.

- In Leviticus 12, two sacrifices are required, one a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or turtledove for a sin offering (12:6). If this is unaffordable, two turtledoves or two pigeons are required (12:8).

- Luke implies that the latter is what is offered by Mary.

Several things that we can learn from example of Mary and the Holy Family

1) Obedience to the Law in all its details

- Mary and Joseph knew that something very special was happening with their son Jesus: messages of angels to Mary and Joseph, the Virgin birth, events with Elizabeth and her child John (the Baptist), visit of Magi, and many other things.

- Yet, we see them diligently observing the details of the Law and making the journey to Jerusalem to offer right sacrifices.

- Humility not to count themselves exceptional, even though they were chosen for great things.

- We learn that there are no exceptions in the Church and the Christian life.

- Those who are chosen for “greater” things – public roles, roles with great levels of responsibility – or given more obvious gifts should be more diligent in demonstrating humility and obedience and not less.

- These responsibilities and gifts are given for the service of God, not for glorification of man.

- Sadly, terrible examples are often set by ministers in the Church who lose sight of the example of Mary and the Holy Family: clerics who abuse their positions and even their own flock because they consider themselves above the law of God.

- Let us humble ourselves and offer right sacrifices like the Holy Family.

2) Consecration of next generation to God.

- As said above, it seems Mary made a special offering of Christ to the Lord in the Temple at Jerusalem.

- We learn from this from Exodus 13 to pass on accounts of the Lord’s faithfulness to next generation.

- “And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. For when Pharoah stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals.” (Exodus 13:14-15).

- Our faith is something that is passed on in families. It is the responsibility of parents to see to this as diligently as possible.

- The Church plays an important role.

- Perhaps you have no children or your children are grown up. Ask yourself: what can I do for the next generation? Can you offer skills or ability to assist with eg Sunday School?

3) Poverty of spirit.

- The Holy Family offered a lesser sacrifice to God because that was all they could afford.

- We learn that, even if we are of modest means, we can still give what we are able to.

- Remember the widow who gave two small copper coins to the treasury and was commended by Jesus for giving out of her poverty. Because she did this, she gave more than those who were rich. (Mark 12:41-44)

- Ultimately these actions reveal the disposition of our hearts towards God. If we love God, we will give freely and generously. If we do not, we will find this harder. But we must remember that it is in giving that our hearts follow.

- St Ambrose, “For this is the true sacrifice of Christ: chastity of body and grace of the spirit.” Ambrose, The Six Days of Creation. Whatever is given or not is ultimately given from the heart.

- Ask yourself, in the presence of God, “What am I being called to give to the Lord?” Think creatively about what he might be calling you to, especially in the Church.

The Poverty of Christ

- The poverty of the Holy Family was no accident. Christ was born into modest circumstances for a reason.

- 2 Corinthians 8:9: ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.’

- Christ divested himself of the riches of heaven to become materially poor.

- Regardless of circumstances, all people are spiritually poor without presence of God.

- Christ became materially poor to raise us up to status of spiritual richness. Culminating in ultimate poverty of his crucifixion and death.

- As we approach the memorial of his sacrifice in this Holy Communion, let us acknowledge our spiritual poverty and our need to be redeemed by the cross of Christ. Let us offer ourselves, as Mary and the Holy Family did, with empty hands and willing hearts, and with faith that the Lord with bless with great spiritual richness both in our lives and in the Church.


bottom of page