Dec 30, 2016

The Holy Family

From Baby to Boy to Man




Of course, with the celebration of Christmas is still permeating the air and the image of the baby Jesus still glowing in our minds, today's celebration of the feast of the Holy Family fast-forwards 12 years. Much can happen in a few days!

Having lost sight of him for a few days, all of a sudden Joseph and Mary are shocked to find Jesus standing up and talking to and questioning the elders in the temple - not as a child, but as their equal, and he does so with authority. Mother is confused, hurt and even naturally upset, having probably worried for those three long days with heartache about what could've happened her "baby". But baby, he is no more.

Notice what mother says to him "son, why have you done this to us?" What brought about the anxiety in the hearts of Joseph and Mary?  I suspect because they knew that one day, he would reveal himself to the world as the Messiah. And Mary knew in her heart her son would have to suffer and make the ultimate sacrifice for the salvation of the world.  But to do so at only 12 years old? Her mother's heart and instinct would not allow this - not yet.  However, Jesus now speaks to her, not with baby talk, but as an adult to his mother and so, without any hint of rebellion, but with clear headedness he says, "why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my father's house?”

Jesus, aware of his identity, is now able to articulate clearly who his true father is - not Joseph (although his role was as a father figure, and a very good one). The young Jesus becomes acutely aware of his heavenly Father. We are told that Joseph and Mary do not understand this answer. Remarkably, Jesus did not try to wrestle himself away from the natural instinct for Joseph and Mary to protect him. In fact, we are told, "he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them." And this is often the greatest challenge children must always make – obedience. Not blind obedience, but out of respect and honor for our parents – for God did use them as instruments to bring us into this world and to keep us safe.

Obedient still, the young man Jesus could now be confident, for he was now holding tightly to the grip of his heavenly Father's hand. Mary must have understood this. She does not interfere, but simply ponders these entire things in her heart. Jesus is no longer her little boy.

But what about Joseph? Interestingly, once Jesus clearly is able to articulate his relationship with his ultimate Father, we never hear from Joseph again. He has fulfilled his responsibility to his own manhood and as a father figure -- a guardian and a protector. The boy has become a man -- he knows who he is and in doing so we are told "Jesus advanced in wisdom and age in favor before God and man”.

To follow Jesus is to allow him to show us his Father whom he presents to you and me as our Father. Through this Holy Mass, we are invited right into the midst of it. Through our baptism, our heavenly Father sees his Son in you and in me. In the Spirit of Jesus, we call out at last without fear, "Abba-Father", and gathered around the Altar, our family life is restored through the sacrifice of Christ our Lord. And where the family of the Lord is, be it in the stable of Bethlehem, the house of Nazareth, at the cross on Calvary, or the upper room on the day of Pentecost, our mother Mary is there.

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