FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY (2021)
Readings:Sirach 3:2-6Psalms 128:1-5Colossians 3:12-21Luke 2:41-52
In case you possibly failed to notice, I need to tell you that our liturgical season has changed since I last wrote. Just yesterday the seasons changed from Advent to Christmas, and although you barely had time to finish your Christmas egg nog, the interim from the season of Advent to the short season of Christmas is always filled with a remembrance of the Holy Family. Indeed, it is the Holy Family that was front and center at yesterday’s Christmas celebrations. The shepherds and angels of yesterday give way to teachers in the Temple today, and Jesus has miraculously (and liturgically) matured into a twelve year old boy, just old enough to be overlooked by His parents and left behind in Jerusalem.
Today’s gospel passage from Luke’s infancy narrative reminds us of what God chose when God took on human flesh. The extraordinary ordinariness of Jesus’ life is oftentimes forgotten by ordinary Christians, perhaps because we know so little about Jesus’ life before His public ministry. This small glimpse of Jesus’ life depicts parents who want to do the right thing. Shortly after His birth, Jesus does what is expected of male children and is brought to Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord. He will travel to Jerusalem some twelve times before today’s gospel reading, every Passover of His young life, but, in spite of the many rehearsals, this time He gets left behind. For those who might be critical of Joseph and Mary’s parenting skills, perhaps they might view the Holy Family as in their first ‘Home Alone, Jerusalem’ audition! Unlike Kevin (the young boy in ‘Home Alone’), however, Jesus doesn’t get into trouble or cause anyone headaches, but the gospel passage hints that the three-day distress of Mary and Joseph might have been just as high as Kevin’s parents.
Surely, it was not the first time that Joseph and Mary “did not understand the saying which He spoke to them.” One might think that Joseph and Mary couldn’t wait to say to Jesus, “you are old enough to know better!” The gospel writer makes clear that Jesus’ decision was not any mere disobedience, for Jesus was “obedient to them” as He grew up in Nazareth. The heart of Mary must have been a crowded place, for “all these things she kept in her heart” started way back, from the time the angel Gabriel visited her, through the Visitation, through her giving birth to Jesus, and up to the present time in Luke. Indeed, there would be many more ‘head-scratching’ moments for Mary to ponder, moments she didn’t completely understand, but moments she abandoned herself to because she so desired that God’s will be done.
The gospels, and the infancy narratives of both Matthew and Luke in particular, make great reading. Their purpose is not so much to tell literal or scientific truths, as it is to proclaim the divinity of Jesus, the Christ. Today’s gospel proclaims Jesus as the quintessential teacher of the truths of God, and He is literally at home in the Temple which was meant to be the sign of God’s presence among the people. Today’s gospel foreshadows the moments yet to come when Jesus, “with authority,” will call those teachers who have lost their way – Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees – back to an authentic teaching that has its origin in God. Jesus takes His rightful place today as the teacher of God’s people. Jesus is able to do that because He is part of a Holy Family, a family steeped in love for one another, a family steeped in love for the God they worship. For another 21 years Jesus’ most important teachers will be His Mother and Father, who will school Him in what it means to be a good Jew, and they will guide Him along the paths of life, demonstrating how children of God treat one another.
The Holy Family of Nazareth serve as an example to all families. Whether the families are rich or poor, traditional or novel, their purpose is to point all in the direction of a loving God. Families, in imitation of the Holy Family, are to view themselves as part of God’s eternal plan, shunning what is evil, promoting what is good, and leading all its members on a journey that will one day end at the gates of heaven. We close with the stirring words of our second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, words that can appropriately guide families everywhere.
“Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”