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Dec 30, 2018

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (C)

Gospel Lk 2:41-52

Each year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
"Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety."
And he said to them,
"Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.


Reflecting & Living God’s Words

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (C)
(Gospel Lk 2:41-52)

- Today’s Gospel relates to when Jesus, Mary, and Joseph went to Jerusalem for Passover. After the feast was over, Mary and Joseph went home but Jesus stayed back. After three days of searching, they found Him sitting among the teachers and conversing with them. When Mary asked Jesus why He made them worried, He answered that He had to take care of His Father’s work. Later on, Jesus obediently went back with his parents in Nazareth. Jesus set a good example for us to follow. The Holy Family put love, faithfulness, and duty to God beyond everything, and we should look up to them as the perfect example of how to live our lives.

1- What do you think of this phrase: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
2- What do you think is the number one obstacle to the happiness of your family and the education of your children in today’s life?

Living God’s Words this week:
- Try to help other families that are under division, quarrel, and conflict through your own action, consolation, and sympathy.

- Before going to sleep, say the Our Father’s prayer to pray for your parents and your brothers and sisters in your family.

- Dear God, in order for us to be like the Holy Family, to live in a loving and caring environment as well as praying and obeying God, please helps all parents to find the happiness and patience in educating their children. Please help them to acknowledge the responsibility of building their family on the foundation of love, faithfulness, and duty to God; so that each family will be its own holy cradle to the Church and each will be able to enjoy living in happiness and peace within You. Amen.


Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (C)

(1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28; Psalm 84; I John 3:1-2,21-24; Luke 2:41-52)

Does it strike you strange that Mary and Joseph would have traveled a day without noticing Jesus wasn’t with them? I have heard stories of families with several children traveling by car and stopping at a rest stop. When they pile back into the car and pull out they realize that one of the children is missing. They immediately turn around to fetch the one who didn’t get into the backseat with the others. But traveling a whole day before noticing Jesus’ absence! What were Mary and Joseph thinking? They only had Jesus to keep an eye on.

I find John Pilch helpful for background about daily life and customs of Jesus’ time ("The Cultural World of Jesus: Sunday by Sunday." Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1997). He says the strongest emotional bond in the Mediterranean world was between the mother and her eldest son. The father’s influence on the son didn’t begin till puberty when the son "was shoved out of the comfort of the women’s world into the harsh and hierarchical men’s world" (page 13).

The adolescent Jesus was at a transitional stage between the worlds of his mother and father. In the caravan people traveled according to gender; just as their society was strictly divided. So, each parent might have concluded that Jesus was "over there" with the others. Mary would have been proud that Jesus was with the men; Joseph would have thought Jesus returned to the comfort of the women. Parents with adolescents can testify to the difficulties they and their children also face at this stage of the child’s life.

When they find Jesus in the company of the adult men and teachers, Pilch suggests Mary and Joseph would have been proud that Jesus had made the transition successfully. But Jesus still wasn’t an adult male and failed to inform his parents of his intention. Hence Mary’s tone of irritation. In the close knit world of Mediterranean people such accountability would have been expected. It doesn’t sound like raising children in Jesus’ world was any easier than in today’s.

As I write this the funerals of the victims in Newtown, Connecticut are underway. One can only imagine the horror and grief the parents of those tiny victims feel. In addition, there are interviews with parents who rushed to the school not knowing whether their little ones were among the victims. Those whose children survived described their fright, relief and joy as they hugged their found children. These recent interviews give us some sense of what Jesus’ parents must have felt when they finally found Jesus.

But we mustn’t dwell on the poignancy of today’s story. Nor wax eloquent about the ideal "holy family." That’s not what Luke is stressing. Instead, Luke seems to be making a statement about Jesus’ identity. He is showing early in his gospel who Jesus is and what his purpose was. As we say in the classroom, Luke is presenting his Christology.

In the history of great people there are usually stories of how remarkable they were in their youth. The stories suggest that signs of their future greatness were evident in their childhood. (Almost always these "biographies" were about men.) What the renowned man did in his childhood presaged his adulthood.

Almost all of Jesus’ childhood is unknown, his "hidden life." There were apocryphal stories of miracles the boy Jesus performed. Today’s "finding" of Jesus by his parents is our sole boyhood story. But it does prefigure who the man Jesus would become. Jesus explains to his parents, "Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?"(the word "know" is in the plural, he was speaking to both Mary and Jesus). Luke focuses on Jesus’ pronouncement – it’s the crux of the story. "I must be" is a phrase he uses elsewhere in his gospel. Jesus has to manifest God’s plan to us, so there are things he "must" do. His "Father’s house" has several meanings. One is that he had to be about the "business" of his Father. "House" could also be inclusive of those members who form the community of his "Father’s house."

What comes through to the reader, even in the presence of his parents, is that Jesus is in a special relationship with God. That’s the awareness that will follow him through his ministry. Jesus has been sent on a mission which will determine all he will do and say. At this point of the gospel is parents do not "understand what he said to them," which anticipates people, including his own disciples, who don’t understand who Jesus is and what he is asking of them. Those disciples who do accept Jesus during his earthly ministry become part of his "Father’s house."

The story begins with the family observing their yearly custom of going, with other devout Jews, to Jerusalem for the Passover. This allusion to Jerusalem at Passover time anticipates the journey the adult Jesus and his disciples will make later. Throughout the gospel Jesus will be about the "business" of his Father’s house, even though it will mean his death. Jesus manifests his wisdom as a boy in the Temple and it is the Temple where he will end his teaching (19:41 – 21:38).

More hints, in today’s passage, of the entire gospel narrative. The religious teachers are "astounded at his understanding and his answers." As the Gospel progresses the religious establishment will oppose Jesus’ teaching. But people will accept him and in the Temple, "the entire populace was listening to him and hanging on his words" (19:48).

Jesus wasn’t simply a precocious child who grew up into a mesmerizing teacher. Jesus speaks of God and for God with an authority well beyond that of the teachers of the Law. The source of Jesus’s wisdom was not from acquired learning. He was in a unique relationship with God and dwelt always in his Father’s house. He taught and invited those who accepted to enter that house, sit at the table of wisdom and eat and drink the choice meal God has prepared.

So, today’s gospel story is not a quaint story from Jesus’ early adolescence. It’s the story that identifies Jesus early in his life and it shines a light on who he was and what he would dedicate his life to. The gospel isn’t just a selection of accounts in the historical life of Jesus. Rather, from the very beginning of the gospel, there is a narrative of God’s unfolding plan for our salvation through the person of Jesus.

Mary and Joseph did not understand the implication of Jesus’ response to them. He obeys his parents, but the under-story reveals his special relationship with his Father. Little by little we will learn more about Jesus and the implication of his life for us. Meanwhile, as Luke’s Gospel progresses each Sunday through this liturgical year, as we dwell in "the Father’s house" with Jesus and one another, we will come to know who our God is through Jesus and what response we are called to make through Christ.

As we read Luke and hear his gospel proclaimed sequentially this year, we acknowledge our own confusion and lack of understanding to what God is asking of us. Mary is our model throughout our listening process. Like her, we resolve to keep "all these things" in our heart in the hope that more will be revealed on our journey with Jesus and his disciples to Jerusalem for the life-giving Passover he will enter into.

Jesus’ death at Passion time will not be the end of the story. We will get a fuller understanding who he is at Easter. Then, with the disciples who entertained the stranger on the road to Emmaus, we will recognize the risen Christ in our midst, our hearts will be set on fire by his words, and our eyes opened at the breaking of the bread (2413-35).

Mary and Joseph preceded us on the road of faith. With them we are at the beginning of the story. But in this short episode are the seeds of the entire gospel. We are invited to meditate constantly on it, as it illumines for us who Jesus is. Joseph is our model of the just person who submits his life to God’s call – even though it contradicted his initial plans. We will accompany Mary as she periodically appears in the gospel. With her we will look and listen at the unfolding events and join her as we keep "all these things" in our heart.

The primary purpose of this gospel story is not meant to instruct us on proper Christian family life; nor is addressed to children to obey their parents. No, it is a gospel story and so reveals early to us God’s plan to bring about our salvation.

Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP