The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Reading I I Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28
Reading II I John: 3:1-2, 21-24
Gospel Luke 2:41-52
We hear in the first reading how Hannah goes back to the temple after her son Samuel was born. She took Samuel to the temple because Samuel means, “God hears us.” She had been praying for a long time for a son, so when her prayers were answered in this way she was thankful to God. She was thankful and recognized that her son Samuel had been a gift to her. It was not a matter of re-gifting so she gave that gift back, recognizing that whatever Samuel did as a prophet and priest — it would be for the glory of God.
For each of us, our lives may not be perfect, we may not get along with our families, and some of us may come from families that are very dysfunctional, which is unfortunate. But that does not lead us away from the fact that we are called to love everyone in our family.
There is a difference between the Holy Family and the fact that there were misunderstandings that we hear about today in the Gospel. After going to Jerusalem for a pilgrimage, after it was over and they were on their way back home, Mary and Joseph made the assumption that Jesus was with one of the other relatives in the caravan. It was only after a day had passed that they realized he was not with them. “He is not here. We have to find Jesus.” Who knows what thoughts were going through their minds.
So they returned to Jerusalem and after three days of searching they finally found him in the temple. He said to them, “Why are you confused? Why did you have to look? Could you not figure out that I had to be here in my Father’s house?” I can only imagine the conversation between Joseph and Mary’s relatives. However, Joseph and Mary were looked upon as good parents, but there was still a miscommunication between Jesus and his parents.
It reminds me of something that happened in my life when I was a child. We were in church on Sunday and historically we behaved OK, but for whatever reason, on this Sunday we were doing what kids do and became very fidgety. Finally, my parents reached around and tried to make sure we were paying attention. After Mass, one person came up to my parents said, “We are so glad to see that your kids are not perfect. They are always so well-behaved and I always thought your kids were perfect, but now I see differently.”
Well, my parents knew that we were kids and not perfect people. We made mistakes and disobeyed and did other things as well. But they understood that, as all children are, we could become fidgety and have minds of our own.
Today we are called to celebrate the feast of “The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” and we are all called by God to be like the Holy Family. At the end of the Gospel it says that “Mary kept all these things in her heart,” and, she remembered that Jesus said, “Did you not know that I was in my Father’s house?” Even so, after he had been found, he went back with Mary and Joseph to their home, and he was obedient to them, and he grew in wisdom and knowledge.
Jesus was not only a gift to Mary, not only a gift to his adopted father Joseph, but he is a gift to each and every one of us. We are able through our baptism to be called the sons and daughters of God and to be in the family of God. And even though we mess up, even though we sin, we have the ability to be forgiven by our Father and we have the ability to grow closer to one another.
In the sacrament of reconciliation, we confess our sins and we are reconciled to God. We are also reconciled to each other and we are able to share in the love and the mercy that God offers to us with our family members and with the church. We can do this because we are family members, not necessarily by blood, but we are in the family of God and we, as the body of Christ, are his family. We are each other’s family. And yes, there are times we irritate each other and do not treat each other in the best way, but at the end of the day we are called to love each and every one of us. We are called to accept each other and to call each other to unite ourselves with Christ more and more so that we can truly be identified as the sons and daughters of God — and to do the will of our Father.
As we celebrate the Holy Family in this Christmas season — and it still is Christmas and will be Christmas for another few weeks until the baptism of our Lord — so as we celebrate this Christmas season, hopefully we will remember how our families, whether it is our own parents, brothers and sisters, an adopted family, or the family of the church — we will remember how they have been a gift to us, and how we have been a gift to them.
And so we ask for the ability to share with one another the love of Christ.
Father Adam Pritchard is parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, IL.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0026)