THE HOLY FAMILY
Cycle C 27th December. 2009
Luke 2: 41-52
There were legends in early Christianity about the boyhood of Jesus and the spectacular feats he performed, but it’s obvious that the evangelists were less interested in peripheral stories prior to Jesus’ public ministry; because none of these feats have been included in the four Gospels; instead his ministry, death and resurrection predominate the Gospels.
There is one account however of Jesus’ boyhood and is told in today’s Gospel; and one can assume that Luke has told today’s story, of the 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple, to bring to a close his infancy narrative, a mini Gospel within the Gospel itself; before Luke starts writing about the public ministry of our Lord. This passage is included because the story focuses on the climatic statement the young Jesus makes, “Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?” It isn’t an astounding deed that makes this story stand out; it’s the early sign of Jesus’ awareness of his call and future ministry.
Jesus’ life is already revealing the reason his Father sent him: he “must” fulfill his vocation. Later in the gospel he will put it another way, “I must proclaim the Good News” (Luke 4:43). In Chapter 9 Jesus will turn his face to Jerusalem where, he tells his disciples, he “must” suffer and die (9:22; 17:25). Today’s passage shows Jesus initiating steps that will eventually take him away from the comfort of his loving (and as we learned today, somewhat bewildered) parents and eventually lead him to the cross where he “must” be about the will of his Father. On his journey to the cross he will see the pain and desperation of his people and he will issue an invitation to his disciples to help him in his ministry to them.
There is a feeling in today’s readings that, even though we are still very much in the Christmas season, we are beginning to move on. Jesus reveals an awareness of his destiny; Jesus is naming his fundamental loyalty to his heavenly Father; a loyalty that will eventually call him to leave his parents, relatives and community to go forth to preach the gospel and begin to form a new family and community; but until then he will return with his parents, be obedient to them, and “advance in wisdom.”
When Jesus begins his public ministry he will call disciples to leave all and follow him; and those who are responsive will not only leave their possessions, they will leave their families as well. As Jesus’ followers they will be part of a new family, a new community of brothers and sisters. Jesus will not ask anything later of his chosen disciples that he himself was not willing to do, beginning as a 12 year old, to leave father and mother for the sake of doing God’s “business.”
We are told the teachers listening to Jesus and hearing his questions were, “astounded at his intelligence and replies.” Again we have a hint of what will occur as Luke unfolds his narrative. Many people will be astounded by Jesus’ words and deeds. But being “astounded” is not enough, unless they decide to change their lives and commit themselves to him.
And so it is today. People will, in their own way, be “astounded” by Jesus. Many of us will admire his peaceable life, inspiring preaching and great deeds and miracles–but from a distance! We will not take that next step required of Jesus’ followers: an act of faith in him and a resulting change in our lives; being “astounded” is not enough.
Luke’s narration of Jesus in the Temple might also be setting an example for us as seekers. Jesus sat with teachers, listened, asked questions and gave answers as well. Who among us doesn’t have doubts and questions about our faith? This shouldn’t be a reason to feel less worthy as Christians; in fact it could be an impetus not to be afraid to ask questions and express our opinions in appropriate settings. Discussing doubts and asking questions might just be what we need for our faith to mature as members of Jesus’ family.
In other areas of our lives we search out information and skills that promote our professional and personal growth. Yet so many of us don’t do the same in matters of our faith: Sunday mass, grace at meals and daily prayers are deemed to be enough. Are we afraid that our faith might be threatened by our inquiries?
Afraid that our questions and replies might show us up as having a weak faith and a lack of understanding; something we are all faced with at sometime.
We are fortunate here at St Michael’s to have a number of active programs available throughout the year, that will help us experience not a weakening, but a growth in our faith; such as Alpha, FIP and RCIA offering religious discussion and instruction; prayer groups and a group of dedicated catechism teachers running a catechetical program that also needs the support of all parents through out the year for our children to understand and grow their faith.
In addition Fr Harrie will be starting a weekly Bible Instruction course as part of the next Lenten program; a wonderful opportunity for us to refresh our faith.
Returning to the Infancy Narrative as a “mini-Gospel”;
After the angels had appeared in Bethlehem’s skies giving glory to God in the highest, and the shepherds had come to find the child Jesus, St Luke tells us that Mary treasured all of these things and pondered them in her heart. And again in today’s passage St Luke tells us that Jesus returned home to live under his parent’s authority and that Mary stored up all these things in her heart.
Mary the first and exemplary disciple of her son and a model for us.
And as we reflect on this passage, what, we might ask do we ponder in our hearts? Do we in fact take time to ponder? If so, what is on our minds?
Are we perhaps at this time of the year coming to terms with having to let go; just as Mary had to wrestle with the concept of having to let Jesus go; giving Him the freedom to fully realize his identity and prepare to travel on a path that would forever change the world; we as parents after spending years coaxing our children from infancy to adulthood have to have that unconditional love mixed with freedom and trust—-unconditional love of our children—-freedom to allow growth—and trust in God to guide, protect and to bring our children to spiritual maturity, as they realize their identity and follow their calling!
Mary invites us in her serenity, into the interior life. She is the first Christian contemplative. In her peace and serenity she offers us her son, inviting us into her own ponderings and contemplations, inviting us to ponder God’s love in our hearts.
The narrative is an invitation to us to join Mary and Joseph in searching for Jesus.
One of the important lessons we can draw from the readings on this Feast of the Holy Family is that, in many ways, each of our families is a holy family. Jesus is God’s only begotten son, but as Hannah recognized in the first reading, we are all children of God. And just as Hannah dedicated her son Samuel to the service of the Lord, so should we dedicate our lives to building God’s Kingdom on earth. John the apostle tells us, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” Brandon Jubar