July 26, 2014 - SAINTS JOACHIM AND ANNE:

SIRACH 44:10-15 ; MATTHEW 13: 16,17

The feast we celebrate today is a family celebration.  In the first reading Ben Sirach assures us of that fact: "Now will I praise godly men and women, our ancestors, each in their own time."  Spiritually, Joachim and Anne are our ancestors. This offers a number of stimulating challenges, not the least of which is the fact that we have no certain historical information concerning them.  Even their names are not historically known.   The story of their lives, however, was included in an early apocryphal Gospel, the Protoevangelium Jacobi that dates from about 175 AD, and which enjoyed a broad diffusion in the Christian world.  It became widely popular and was translated early into many languages from the original Greek: Latin, Syrian, Coptic, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopian, and Arabic.   Today's first reading was carefully adapted to the fact that we can be sure that Mary was born of devoted Jewish parents who passed on to her the best of the traditions of Israel.  Sirach accurately predicted the future of the story of Mary's parents when he stated that "for all time their progeny will endure, their glory will never be blotted out."   There is something about knowing Jesus' grandparents that contributes to the realization that his human experience was rooted in traditional Jewish family that included grandparents.

Jesus himself had grown into manhood living in close communication with his extended family.  The Gospels mention a number of instances that reveal his relations along with his mother remaining in contact with him even during the time of his public life. His neighbors thought of him as a member of an extended family: "Is this not the carpenter," they commented upon hearing him preach, "the son of Mary, the brother of Jacob, and Joseph and Jude and Simon? And his sisters are with us." (Mark 6:3)

At our Eucharist this evening, we honor the parents of Jesus' mother.  Joachim and Anne are the names given them by our Christian tradition.  They exemplify by their lives the lesson our Lord sets forth in today's Gospel.  So humble, so dedicated to God's ways as revealed in his word.  We know this from the result; it is manifest in the person of their daughter, Mary.  It was under their guidance and protection that Mary developed the character that enabled her to correspond with the unique destiny prepared for her in God's eternal plan of salvation.  We have no direct knowledge of either of this couple, yet we readily appreciate the kind of persons they were through knowing their daughter Mary whom they prepared for her role as Mother of the Savior.  May Joachim and Anne, the holy parents of the holiest of women, intercede for us that we might become worthy of sharing with them the new life of our risen savior, Jesus, son of Mary.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger