Count the Stars if You Can; Feast of the Holy Family

Pleiades star cluster next to the steeple of Holy Name of Mary church, Tsiigehtchic
Genesis 15.1-6,21:1-3 | Psalm 105 |Hebrews 11:8,11-12,17-19 | Luke 2:22-40

If you look up into the blackness of a northern sky on a cold clear night, you will be gifted with the most spectacular view of the stars that fill the void in a way that you just can not realize if you live in a big city. Yet, even on the darkest of nights, our eyes can only perceive a small fraction of what lies above. Once, after taking a photograph of the northern lights, I happened to notice in the picture a small cluster of stars that I had never noticed before. A short time exposure with my camera had revealed to me the details of something hidden which had always been there but had escaped my view. I went to Google to see what I could learn and, sure enough, the nighttime feature was well known and had a name. It was called the Pleiades cluster, or the “Seven Sisters” which is taken from Greek Mythology.

It is interesting to note the reference to sisters, as in todays first reading from the book of Genesis, the Lord says to Abram, “Look up into the heavens and count the stars if you can, these will be the number of your descendants”. An amazing promise made to an old man who had no offspring. Yet this reference to a multitude of generations, an extended family beyond imagination, is a promise that the Lord would keep to Abram and, like the starry sky above, God’s promise would reveal to the world more than Abram could even begin to comprehend.

Abram, who became Abraham, is our ancestor in faith. We are his descendants. In the letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul writes that It is because Abraham was faithful to what God asked of him that we are here today. While Abram could only look up and count the stars, we can look back and see how faithful God was to all the generations that followed and how God still walks with us today.

Today we remember one particular family that grew out of the line of Abraham and that is the family of Joseph, who married Mary, who together bore a son named Jesus. While far removed from the time of Abraham, Mary and Joseph believed in the same Lord and God as Abraham. When the time was right, they took Jesus to the temple to return a promise to God, that what they had received in blessing, they would return, and their son would be consecrated to the Lord. While there, they met two holy people, Anna and Simeon who revealed to them what they could not have imagined, that their son Jesus, was bound to be “a light to the nations and the glory of the people” the savior of the world.

This same Jesus is our brother. The Holy Family is a model for our families. A family that keeps faith and trusts in God, even when the stars above might be hidden from view. A family who believes in God’s promise, that God will always be faithful and will never abandon them.

The psalm response makes a wonderful mediation for this celebration and one which we can perhaps take with us into our day.

The Lord remembers his covenant for ever, his promise for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He, the Lord, is our God. He remembers his covenant for ever.