December 30, 2018
Sunday, December 30
Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Luke 2: 41 – 52
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast
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.
Today the church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. We often think of the holy family in an idealized way. We think they had no problems, no worries, no concerns no disagreements among them. NOT!! We forget the basics of what we know. When she was nine months pregnant, Mary, with Joseph, had to travel to Bethlehem, a 90-mile trip on donkey or walking. Once there they could find no place to stay. This forced Mary and Joseph to bring Jesus into this world in a shepherd’s cave and lay him in an animal’s feeding trough. Before Jesus was two, Mary and Joseph had to become migrants. They had to get out of the country and migrate (probably with many others) to Egypt. They had to escape Herod’s slaughter of the children.
I am not a parent, but I taught children for many years. I know the terror of losing one of them. I know the relief and the frustration of finding one of the strays. You want to joyfully embrace them while at the same time scolding them for getting lost or not doing as they were told. I know the heartbreak of losing a child (for me a student) through terminal illness or suicide. That pain is so deep and so lasting that it forever puts a slight cloud over every joy. There are many in our parish who know this pain and anguish.
When I read this story of Jesus staying in the Temple, I could feel the tension in me heighten. I think Mary and Joseph experienced the enormity of anguish and bone chilling panic of parents when a child is missing. Mary and Joseph started the journey home full of happiness. They had just celebrated the holy days in Jerusalem. Jesus, being twelve years old, would have been allowed to travel to with Joseph and the men. However, because he was right at the edge of 12, he could also have traveled with Mary and the women. Most likely everyone stopped for the night, after a long day’s journey. That is when they discovered Jesus was missing. Panic and fear must have filled their hearts. They had lost Jesus. The day long journey back to Jerusalem must have been excruciating for them. Upon finding Jesus in the Temple, he did not seem to be concerned for their upset and said something quite confusing; “Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?” What a difficult response to receive! What a challenge of faith! “How can we be good parents?” is a question often asked by parents. Joseph and Mary, no doubt asked the same question. “How can we be good parents for Jesus?”
It is not easy being parents, and yet, it is one of the most important things we are asked to do. Parents want to teach their children to be good people, to be respectful of others, to be kind to others, to help those in need, to teach them to pray and help them to know the importance of God in their lives. Parents want to teach and guide their children through each stage of their lives. As they move toward independence and interdependence, they want them to realize their gifts and potential. Mary and Joseph had the same desires for Jesus. Jesus had been entrusted to their care, just as your children have been entrusted to your care. The gospel today tells us that Jesus returned with them to Nazareth and, “he grew in wisdom, age and favor (grace).” We know next to nothing about these hidden years of Jesus. When we hear of him again Jesus will be a man. Joseph will have died leaving Mary a single mother. Jesus would have learned a craft and cared for and supported his mother.
The Feast of the Holy Family is an invitation to ask Mary, Joseph and Jesus to be with our family. It is a time for parents to ask Joseph and Mary to be with you and guide you, and do your best to keep your children safe and hopeful. Today is an invitation to all of us to pray for parents and families everywhere; pray for single parents; and pray for those who are caring for elderly parents. They cannot do it alone. We, as a parish community, have been entrusted to care for and love the children. The saying, “it takes a village to raise a child,” is right. It took the village of Nazareth and it takes the village we call St. Brigid of Kildare.
REFLECTION FOR PARENTS
Family will be important to your children, if family is important to you.
Prayer will be important to your children, if prayer is important to you.
Quiet time will be important to your children, if quiet time is important to you.
Peace will be important to your children, if peace is important to you.
Forgiveness and reconciliation will be important to your children,
if forgiveness and reconciliation are important to you.
Religion will be important to your children, if religion is important to you.
Service will be important to your children, if service is important to you.
God will be important to your children, if God is important to you.
That which is important to us we find time for — that is the bottom line. Be honest with yourself as parents and take time to articulate what is important to you as a husband and wife, as parents and as a family. Don’t just list the “should be important” things, be very, very honest and truthful and list the things that really are important. Then decide if life is the way you want it to be. If not, why not and what will you do alone and together to change what needs to be changed, to strengthen what needs to be strengthened, to rejoice in what needs to be celebrated?
Thank you, parents, for loving and caring for your children.
Sister Teresa Tuite, OP