Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Feast of the Holy Family

Gospel: Luke 3:10-18

Each year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the feastof Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom.As they were returning from the feast, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.Thinking that Jesus was in the caravan, they continued their journey for a day, looking for him among their relatives and acquaintances. But not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.After three days' search 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 Mary and Joseph saw Jesus, they were astonished,and Mary said, "Son, why have you done this to us?Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And Jesus said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in God's house?" But they did not understand what he said to them. After that, Jesus went down with them to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.Mary kept all these things in her heart, and Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and people alike.

December 30, 2012 (Year C)

 On this day (the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph) we celebrate the gift of family.

Each reading today gives us a slightly different slant on what is required for good family life. The first reading from the Book of Sirach, speaks of the authority of parents and the requirement of children to obey them. Part of a larger section on family life in general, this section is considered a commentary on the fourth commandment to honor our father and mother, to honor those who are parenting our soul to wholeness, to honor those who through sacrifice and teaching have brought us beyond self-centeredness to the decent human self we are today. This reading seeks to show that family life can be a source of holiness when lived in accordance with God’s will for us. The father and mother were set in honor and authority over the children because they were mutually responsible for imparting God's way of holiness to their children, while the children who respected their parents atoned for their sins and stored up riches in heaven. Obedience, honor, and reverence for parental authority were strong family values for the Hebrew fact in most Hebrew circles, one mourned longer for parents after their death, than one did even for a spouse. No parents are typical; no parents are perfect -- but we do not honor them for that.

We honor them because they did what they could in making us what we are and when we mature, we realize that we were meant to do the rest for ourselves anyway. Not to honor those who gave us life and have carried us through any part of life is a sin against the Creator who goes on creating us through the work of others. And hopefully, those whose lives we shaped in any parenting role, will remember our efforts as being a blessing to them. The Jewish promise of shalom (a perfectly harmonious life) is realized for those who live in right relationship with their families. The second reading actually lists the qualities necessary for this right, harmonious relationship within families, and it's no surprise that it's a list of qualities necessary for harmonious relationships within any community of human beings -- compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.

Ironically enough, we don't readily see these virtues at play, in the verbal exchange between Jesus and his mother when his parents finally find him in the temple. Mary and Joseph have been besides-themselves freaking out at having realized their son has now been alone for four days and possibly in the hands of bandits or even dead; they are full of fear, grief, sorrow, and guilt and all Jesus can say to Mary is, "Why were you looking for me? Didn't you know that I must be in my Father's house, about my Father's business?"At first impression, this seems rather smart-mouthed of Jesus, and hardly a fitting response for one we believe to be God. But let us note that this the very first time Jesus speaks in the Scriptures, that he speaks in the Temple and that this is the only time for another 18 years, that the evangelists note that he speaks at all. Since these few verses recount the only episode of Jesus' 1st 30 yrs of life (ie., after the infancy narratives and before the accounts of his public life), let us consider the very special significance Luke intended in telling it. Let us consider that Jesus, being who he is, was more spiritually inclined and interested than the average boy of his time. After all, despite the Jewish requirement of boys having to observe Passover in the Temple at age 13, Luke makes it a point to say that Jesus was only 12 and that this was Mary and Joseph's it's likely that Jesus had pressed them

to accompany them in previous years as well. So in this Temple scene, we see Jesus, a precocious twelve-year-old, who is so engrossed in discussing and learning the Scriptures that he hasn't realized the caravan had left without him. Perhaps he has found a place to sleep with friends who hadn't gone home so early. Perhaps he didn't believe that his parents would have gone home without him -- that they must still be in Jerusalem. Maybe, when he discovered they had already left, he decided to stay put where they could find him. And, surely, they should know where to find him -- in the Temple, in the place that was central to their lives, as a devout, praying-together family. At Jesus' question, "Why were you looking for me?", we, like Mary and Joseph, are led to remember the Holy Family's history to this point, some of which they must have certainly shared with Jesus by now and he would be aware of--his birth in a stable in Bethlehem, the angels and shepherds rejoicing at his birth, the Magi and their gifts, Herod trying to kill hi, their flight into Egypt and 2-yr exile there.

So Jesus' "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" is kind of a 'duh' question, but it is much more than that. After 3 days of Jesus' being more intensely immersed in God's word than he has ever been in his life, this question represents a turning point in His life. Mary speaks about "your father and I" in verse 48. But in verse 49, Jesus takes the word "father" and applies it to the God of the Temple.
These are the first words coming from the lips of the Word Incarnate to be recorded in the Gospel. In these words Jesus sums up His whole person, His whole life, His whole mission. They reveal His Divine Sonship; they testify to His supernatural mission. Christ's whole life will be a total, purposeful clarification and magnificent exposition of the meaning of these words......I must be about my Father's business. This personal intimacy of the phrase "my Father" referring to God is unprecedented in Jewish literature. And it is this amazing claim of intimate filial relationship to God that gets Jesus accused of blasphemy later in life. This passage gives us a glimpse that at age twelve Jesus was feeling a unique necessity and a compulsion to do God's will--the mystery remains to this day, though, just how fully he comprehended his Divine-human nature at this point. What we do know is that Jesus was sensing a call to obey the Father. But he knew that part of that obedience involved submitting to his parents. The Gospel tells us "Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them" (2:51a). The call was there, but it was not yet time to fulfill it. And being fully human, and not just play-acting, he realized that he must wait, learn, grow, and allow his parents, friends and neighbors to prepare him for that time when he would enter into his ministry.

. And what about Mary and Joseph, how do they raise a son whom they believed to be the Messiah? With Max Lucado (God Came Near, p. 25) I wonder if under any circumstances they ever did really have to scold him? what he and his cousin John talked about as kids? if Mary and Joseph ever felt awkward teaching him how he created the world? if they ever tried to count the stars with him....and they actually succeeded? if when he saw a lamb being led to the slaughter, he acted any differently? So, we are left pondering, treasuring in our hearts, with Mary and Joseph, the Mystery of God's Incarnation into the world. We are left with the example of their Holy Family .....a family that prayed and played and stayed together through their most amazing evangelizing life in all of human history. And finally, we are left with a call to be 'holy' and to be 'family' live contemplative lives centered on God and to live caringly for each other.

Deacon Mary Wagner

St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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