Sunday Gospel Reflection
Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph
Luke 2:41-52 | December 26, 2021
Christ In Our Homes
Claud, Ministry of Lectors and Commentators
During our early childhood days, we normally believed that everything our parents told us was true and their decisions were correct. They taught us what (they believed) was right, how to ‘properly’ conduct ourselves in society, and how to deal with ‘the ways of the world.’ They did so to protect and prepare us for the ‘real world.’ As young children, we saw and lived life from the eyes of our parents. We shared their values, agreed with their decisions, and abided by their rules.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. We are reminded to honor and respect our parents, be more considerate of them as they grow old, and to put Christ in the center of our family life.
Our Gospel today shows us Jesus setting an example as a child that, although he is the son of God, he fulfilled his role as a son to Joseph and Mary. Jesus was raised by Joseph and Mary as a devout Jew, strictly following the Jewish laws and customs. Luke 2:42 says, “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.” This story is the only account in the Gospel of the childhood days of Jesus before he began his public ministry. It is a short narrative, but it tells a lot about the child Jesus.
First, it tells us that the child Jesus must have been an obedient and steadfast son, earning his parents’ trust and knowing his parents’ hearts. It was (probably) the first time for him to stay behind after the Passover, as it took his parents a day’s journey before realizing that Jesus was not in the caravan going home—they just assumed he was! Thus, the astonishment of his mother when they finally saw him in the temple after three days. Perplexed, Mary asked Jesus, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Lk 2:48) Had he been an unreliable son, his parents would have ensured that he was with them before leaving or even had him on their side the entire journey.
Second, that Jesus exuded his discerning nature even during childhood. Even as a child, he showed great interest in the law and matters of the society and was already preaching “about his Father’s business.” Jesus was found “…sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.” (Lk 2:46-47)
Lastly, that even as he was aware of his supremacy and his nature as God, he remained respectful and obedient to his parents. After his mother Mary scolded her for staying behind, “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.” (Lk 2:51-52)
Although he is the son of God, already full of wisdom as a child, he fulfilled his role as a son to Joseph and Mary.
Today’s celebration presents the Holy Family as the model of a Christian family and is also a celebration of our own families. In our First Reading, Sirach 3:12-13 reminds us, “take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life.” This tells us that misunderstandings and differences naturally occur in a family, and that makes loving each other more challenging. Despite this, as St. Paul says, we should “put on love, that is, the bond of perfection, and letting the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.” (Col 3:14-15)
In a recent conversation with friends, some of whom already have children of their own, we learned that for most of us, the image of our parents from when we were young have changed through the years. One good thing about aging is it allows us to see more of our parents as their own persons, beyond being a mother and a father. We realize that they are far from perfect and see more of their shortcomings. We learn and appreciate the hardships they endured and the sacrifices they made to survive and give their children a good life. That, while they may have made mistakes, they did the best they could with what they knew at that time for our sake. That, while some parents have spent more time away from family to work, they have done so in order to provide for the family. That, while they may have scolded us, they did so out of concern for us. As we recognize their imperfections and weaknesses, we see the struggles they were so willing to go through out of love for their children.
As we meet different people and encounter various perspectives, we (may) begin to drift away from the teachings of our parents, we engage in discussions and share in making decisions on family matters. Today is a reminder that, despite differences within the family, living a life centered in Christ and loving one another as God loves us pleases the Lord and keeps the family together.