Gospel Reflection Dec 26 – Sr. Teresa

Sunday, December 26

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

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.

Gospel Reflection:

Wait a minute –was it not just yesterday when we were captivated by the birth of Jesus? Now, in today’s gospel, he is twelve years old!! Time does go by very fast! I would imagine that every parent who reads this story can resonate with Mary and Joseph. Most likely you have either experienced or you will eventually experience that moment when your child has one foot in childhood and one foot in early adulthood. That is the moment when they inform you (with great certainty), “I am not a little kid anymore. I am grown. I can make my own decisions. I have a life of my own.” This is really what was happening between Jesus (this young boy between twelve and thirteen) and his parents, Joseph and Mary.

In this culture the children were raised by the mother (and every other woman in the village) for the first 12 years. Mary would have taught Jesus his prayers. He would have learned how to work in the fields. He would have learned how to harvest the olives and to press them into oil. He would have learned how to work in the vineyards, harvest grapes and press them into wine. He would have tended sheep and drawn water from the well. Jesus would have witnessed the women of the village caring for all the children, as well as nourishing and nurturing their families. He would have learned how to relate to others in play and work. He would have learned what it meant to be family. In short, Jesus would have learned everything that made up village life.
Then between 12 and 13, the boys would transition from their mother’s care to their father’s. Because Jesus was on the edge (one step in childhood and one step in early adulthood), it is understandable how Mary may have thought he was with Joseph and the men, and Joseph may have thought he was with his mother and the other women. Once they realized he was with neither, they rushed back to find him in the Temple. They were, like any parent would be, between anger and absolute fright.
Sometimes we exaggerate Jesus’ response: “Did you not know I must be in my father’s house?” and we often stop listening after that. Jesus’ comment would be the equivalent of saying, “I am not a little boy anymore, I am a man! I can make my own decisions.” We are not privy to what Joseph and Mary’s response was, but what we do know is that Jesus was not allowed to stay in the Temple or Jerusalem. Indeed, he went back with his parents to Nazareth. Mary and Joseph knew he was not ready, he still had much to learn. He would learn that at home with them. Just as all the parents reading this know that your child has to be ready to “set out into the world on their own.”

Once back in Nazareth, Joseph would have taken over the care of Jesus from this point. He would teach Jesus what it meant to be a good man, a faithful Jewish man. He would learn what behaviors were appropriate and inappropriate. Joseph would have taught Jesus that Jewish Law was not just rules and regulations, but the Law is what gave shape, heart and meaning to their lives. Jesus would learn how to pray with the men in the synagogue and all the ritual washing techniques. Joseph would also have taught Jesus a trade. We often think of Joseph as a carpenter with wood, but most likely Joseph was a skilled masonry worker (wood was scarce but stone abundant). He would have helped people in the village build a house that would be sturdy and long-lasting. When Jesus was old enough, Joseph would have taken him to work as his apprentice. Jesus would learn how to build things, how to make them secure, what kind of a foundation to build upon, etc. He would learn how to interact with people who were not Jewish. Joseph would have taught him all of those things that Jewish men needed to know to be a faithful Jew and a good provider for their family.

The end of the passage today, holds the key:
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 grace
before God and people,

Mothers hold many things about their children deep within their heart. The next time we hear of Jesus, he will be nearly 30 years old. Joseph would have died, and Jesus would have taken care of his mother. However, his mother would tell Jesus that it was time for him to begin his mission. We will hear that at the wedding feast of Cana. Mary will send him on his way.

On this day, the Feast of the Holy Family, let us pray with great gratitude for all parents. Parents have been given an awesome responsibility. They are called to help shape, develop, nurture and nourish their children. They are the primary teachers and caregivers of their children. They will help their children to grow in wisdom, age and grace with each other’s help, with the help of all who enter their lives, and with the ever-present help of God. It is truly an awesome and precious responsibility that parents have. They hold the future in their care, and we all have the responsibility to help them in that care. It does take a village to raise a child. Today on the feast of the Holy Family, let us pray for all families.

–Sister Teresa Tuite, OP