Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Cycle B.

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Families are made up of young and old.

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:


Leader:          In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


All reply:        Amen


Leader:          Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


All reply:        Blessed be God for ever

Leader:          On this first Sunday after Christmas Day, we honour the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We pray for all who have been part of our families, those still alive and those whom we hope have joined the great family of God in heaven.



First Reading: Genesis 15:1-6; 21:13

 Introduction to the reading: In ancient Near Eastern culture, it was thought essential to have a male descendent to carry on the family line and inherit all that his parents had worked for.  But the elderly Abraham and Sarah were still childless, which seemed to contradict God’s earlier promise to them.  Today’s passage will tell us how this problem was resolved.


A reading from the Book of Genesis

After these things the word of the Lord
came to Abram in a vision,
“Fear not, Abram, I am your shield;
your reward shall be very great.”
But Abram said, “O Lord God,
what wilt you give me,
for I continue childless,
and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”
And Abram said, “Behold,
you have given me no offspring;
and a slave born in my house will be my heir.”
And behold, the word of the Lord came to him,
“This man shall not be your heir;
your own son shall be your heir.”
And he brought him outside and said,
“Look toward heaven, and number the stars,
if you are able to number them.”
Then he said to him,
“So shall your descendants be.”
And he believed the Lord;
and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.

The Lord visited Sarah as he had said,
and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised.
And Sarah conceived,
and bore Abraham a son in his old age
at the time of which God had spoken to him.
Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him,
whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.


The word of the Lord.


 Responsorial psalm: Ps 105:1-2.3-4.5-6.8-9

 R/: He, the Lord, is our God;
he remembers his covenant forever.

 Give thanks to the Lord; proclaim his name.

Make known his deeds among the peoples.

O sing to him, sing his praise;

tell all his wonderful works!


Glory in his holy name;

let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice.

Turn to the Lord and his strength;

constantly seek his face.


Remember the wonders he has done,

his marvels and his words of judgement.

O children of Abraham, his servant,

O descendants of the Jacob he chose.


He remembers his covenant forever;

the promise he ordained for a thousand generations,

the covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath he swore to Isaac.


R/:  He, the Lord, is our God;
he remembers his covenant forever.


 Second reading: Hebrews 11:8.11-12.17-19

Introduction to the reading: The author of the letter to the Hebrews frequently held up Old Testament heroes as models of faith.  He did this because he was writing to a community whose faith was wavering.  Today he presents, as examples, Abraham and Sarah whose faith had survived severe testing.

 A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews

Brothers and sisters,

By faith Abraham obeyed
when he was called to go out to a place
which he was to receive as an inheritance;
and he went out,
not knowing where he was to go.

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive,
even when she was past the age,
since she considered him faithful who had promised.
Therefore from one man,
and him as good as dead,
were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven
and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested,
offered up Isaac,
and he who had received the promises
was ready to offer up his only-begotten son,
of whom it was said,
“Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.”
He considered that God was able
to raise people even from the dead;
hence he did receive him back,
and this was a symbol.

The word of the Lord.


Alleluia, alleluia.
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.

Gospel: Luke 2:22-40

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke

When the time came for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
the parents of Jesus brought him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord
(as it is written in the law of the Lord,
“Every male that opens the womb
shall be called holy to the Lord”)
and to offer a sacrifice
according to what is said in the law of the Lord,
“a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon,
and this man was righteous and devout,
looking for the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus,
to do for him according to the custom of the law,
he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

And his father and his mother
marvelled at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel,
and for a sign that is spoken against
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),
that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”

And there was a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher;
she was of a great age,
having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity,
and as a widow till she was eighty-four.
She did not depart from the temple,
worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God,
and spoke of him to all who were looking
for the redemption of Jerusalem.

And when they had performed everything
according to the law of the Lord,
they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favour of God was upon him.

The Gospel of the Lord.


Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.


In my childhood—a while back, admittedly—I looked forward every year to the  New Year’s Eve party my parents had. We would listen to the countdown to midnight on the radio, sing “Auld Lang Syne” and open champagne to toast the new year. I remember my dad going first-footing to another family on our street. First footing is about the first person to enter the home of a household on New Year’s Day and is seen as a bringer of good fortune for the coming year. They wanted my dad because he had black hair – what was left of it because he had a growing bald patch – and he would carry a piece of coal. I am not sure why, but that was the custom.  Dad was always obliging, so soon after midnight, he would go and visit and put his foot first across the threshold. My mother always said he did it to get out of helping clean up after the party. 😊

But of course, Christmas was the big deal. It was the main holiday— going to midnight Mass, and when we returned – champagne and mince pies and we would open our presents. I remember falling asleep during Midnight Mass, but waking up enough to open my presents!

These holidays always have been special and important in our lives. Even during the pandemic, we are still making an effort to celebrate. That is why I wonder about placing the feast of the Holy Family between them. Won’t family be put into the shade, even if the shopping and decorating have to be curtailed this year, if people adhere to Covid-19 precautions.

How can we focus on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Sunday – especially when we are living with the uncertainty of a variant strain of Covid-19.  This mutant strain is serious enough for borders to close and flights to be cancelled. It makes the pandemic even more stressful for us.

In the midst of all this  – in between Christmas and New Year, we have the feast of the Holy Family.

What this “feast” for? The Presentation in the Temple, portrayed in the  Gospel today, will be celebrated on February 2nd, using exactly the same Gospel reading. Thus the “historical” significance of this event is repeated later when it can have full significance. So the Church must have has something besides chronology or history in mind when it puts this reading right after Christmas.

I would like us to zoom in on the spiritual content of this Mass. This Sunday contains one of the few descriptions of the Holy Family in all scripture. Their appearance here emphasizes how important family care is for children and for all human beings. Mary and Joseph seem hesitant but have exquisite care for the baby Jesus.

Look at the important words of Simeon, which interpret the Nativity for us, though they may not seem to:

“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

Obviously these words refer to the baby born just a few days ago. They are like using a highlighter on the Christmas story. The child brings peace; Jesus is a fulfillment of the Lord’s word that a Messiah would come; Jesus is an entrance of the Word into the whole world, not just to part of it: Jesus is sent to Gentiles as well as to Israel; he is a revelation and he is a glory. We definitely need this understanding of who Jesus is for us.

Then there is not only Simeon, but also Anna. We are told she had done Advent fasting and prayer in the temple until she was 84 years old! At last, poignantly, she begins to speak about the child, addressing everyone who had been awaiting redemption. She is a marvellous symbol of the Advent we have just been through: patient waiting and learning.

This powerful story helps us to celebrate family today.

The document on Family Life by Pope Francis is called The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia in Latin). This document recognizes human growth and feelings within marriage.  In a time when so many have turned away from formal marriage unions, it is encouraging for us to recognise the significance of joy in family life.

Pope Francis reminds us that the church must help families of every sort, and people in every state of life, know that, even in their imperfections, they are loved by God and can help others experience that love.


Our parishes must work to make people feel welcome in the church. We are called to be a pastoral and merciful church that encourages people to experience the “joy of love.” The family is an absolutely essential part of the church, because after all, the church is a “family of families.”

We end with the Prayer to the Holy Family from Amoris Laetitia:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate the splendour of true love;
to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again experience violence, rejection and division;
may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer.

From today’s Gospel reading:  

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon…. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

There was a prophetess, Anna…. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.


Simeon and Anna were vigilant in prayer and watching – waiting for God to enter their lives. They were wide awake and receptive to something new and unexpected. God is there in surprising ways for those with open minds and hearts. Like Simeon and Anna, those who have put their hope in God will recognize the messiah when at last the Christ does come.

So we ask ourselves:

  • For what revelation from God am I waiting?
  • Where and how am I waiting?
  • What will be the sign that will tell me God has visited me in my waiting?


Prayer of the Faithful

 Leader:          Inspired by the word of God, we commend to our God and Father the needs of our brothers and sisters


We pray for the Church: (pause)

that the infant Christ revealed as a light for all nations at his presentation in the Temple may be truly visible through the lives of his followers today.


We pray for the grace of awareness among people today: (pause)
that they may recognise that Christ is present among us and particularly through people who are poor, marginalised and too easily dismissed as worthless.

We pray for all those living in the darkness of loneliness, marginalisation and despair: (pause)
that the light of the Gospel may open within them a new awareness of people who are no longer strangers, but brothers and sisters.

We pray for those in our community who are sick: (pause)

that they may feel the prayerful support of their community of faith.

We pray for all who are fighting the Coronavirus: (pause)
that God will strengthen caregivers, inspire researchers, and guide those who will be distributing the vaccine.


We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time.


Leader:          Let us pray our prayer for Families:



we pray for the many needs of families:

for abundant love, for forgiveness and reconciliation,

for a living faith to face the challenges of each day.


Jesus, you were born into a human family

and became our brother.

You know well what families need

to nourish both children and parents

in long-lasting bonds of love and respect.

Help all families to turn to you as their source of life.


May your Spirit encourage husbands and wives,
mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.

Give us all the eyes to appreciate one another

and to be grateful for the gift of families.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.


 Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

 My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul at least spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you. Amen.



 Leader:          Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

 All say:          Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:           God of blessings,

in the Holy Family you give us the model

of a household drawn together in love.

Grant that we may follow their example

and be welcomed with joy into your home in heaven.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen



 A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

 Leader:          May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

 All:                  Amen.