Date: Sunday, December 30, 2018
Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
They have no “Amber Alert!” When Mary and Joseph realize that Jesus is not with extended family or neighbors, they have no alternative but to break from the safety of the caravan and return to Jerusalem searching for their missing twelve-year-old son. After three days they find Jesus sitting in the temple amid teachers and asking questions. Mary asks Jesus: “Son, why have you done this to us. Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Jesus replies: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Joseph and Mary do not understand.
Many families cannot relate to the “Holy Family” of Nazareth until this painful exchange in the Gospel according to St. Luke. Parents can relate to the fear, worry and misunderstanding of Mary and Joseph. Pre-teens can see in Jesus a step of independence.
Jewish society is composed of concentric communities: nuclear family, extended family and relatives, clans and tribes forming the People of Israel. A nuclear family within an extended family forms a “House” like the House of David. It is here within the kinship of “the House” that important decisions regarding marriage, inheritance and disagreements are made. Jesus is saying to Mary and Joseph that he must be in his Father’s House.
As God’s beloved son, Jesus is part of the Father’s House. For us as God’s children belonging to the Father’s House is not determined by blood but by covenant. There will be another painful moment for Mary and the family of Joseph, when later in Jesus’ public ministry when they want to see him, Jesus will say: “My mother and brothers (and sisters) are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (Luke 8:21) Being part of the family of the Father is possible for those who enter relationship with the Son Jesus and live with fidelity, integrity and compassion.
A sense of belonging is so important to our wellbeing. Analysis of the problems we face in our society will undoubtedly point to broken families. Every family, even the Holy Family of Nazareth, experiences misunderstanding and heartache. Honesty and forgiveness are anointments that mend and blend families together. Families can hold together even when one member is discovering his or her place outside the family like Jesus. St. Luke, the evangelist, concludes: “He (Jesus) went down with them 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.” Luke 2:51-52)