Browsing Homilies

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph (Feast)

Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 | Ps 128 | Col 3:12-21 or 3:12-17 or 1 Jn 3:1-2, 21-24 | Lk 2:41-52

I’m always in awe of new parents and love watching a parent rock their child to sleep. This is certainly a sacred time. I can imagine that these moments might be filled with a lot of future thinking and dreaming. What will this baby grow up to be? What will this child be like as a toddler, as a teenager, as an adult? These moments are probably filled with many parental hopes and dreams for their young baby.

I can imagine that Mary and Joseph experienced some similar moments. We don’t hear much about Jesus’ infancy and youth in the gospels after the events surrounding his birth. In fact, except for this bit from Luke today, we really don’t hear much at all. So, it’s left to our prayerful imagination to fill in the details and to think about what it was like for Mary and Joseph to raise Jesus. I can imagine Mary and Joseph rocking their son back to sleep, dreaming of what his future life would be like. I imagine that they probably thought he would stay in Nazareth, become a carpenter like Joseph, maybe marry and have kids of his own. Hopefully, he would take care of them as they got older.

But I also wonder when Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was different. Certainly, they knew and remembered the prophecy that was given to them by the angel Gabriel, but I wonder how much that had actually sunk in. They could not have known all the details of what it meant for Jesus and for their family. This brings us to today’s gospel where we see a twelve-year-old Jesus separated from his parents for three days! The panic that Mary and Joseph must have felt! When they find him in the temple, wowing the teachers and the scribes, they say something that I could imagine my own parents saying to me, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

Jesus offers a mysterious response: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Mary and Joseph probably don’t fully understand what Jesus has just said to him, but they certainly understood that their son was different. Different from the other 12-year-olds who had traveled with them in their caravan. Different from the son that they might have imagined as they rocked him as an infant to sleep. But we don’t hear anything else about the conversation among this Holy Family, so again, we must use our own prayerful imagination.

What was the conversation like among the three of them as they journeyed back home? Were Mary and Joseph angry because they thought he had acted irresponsibly? Were they sternly admonishing him never to leave like that again? Were they frustrated that something was happening inside of their son that they couldn’t understand? Did they remember back to the message of the angel before Jesus’ birth?

How many of our families have turned out different than we imagined? How many of our lived realities are different than we had hoped for? Maybe you haven’t been able to have a family of your own. Maybe you have a son or daughter who has grown up differently than you dreamed they would, as you rocked them as a child or nursed them in the womb. What has that been like? I can imagine the frustration with not understanding the sense of loss of your imagined future. I can also imagine the beauty of surprise of seeing your child become something you never imagined and the desire to make that child feel loved.

On the other side, maybe you are the son or daughter who feels like you have grown up outside of your parents’ dreams. I can imagine that there is some loss on your part. Maybe you have struggled with accepting your own difference and just want your parents to do the same. Perhaps there has been some tension and pain and hurt along the way.

Today’s feast and today’s gospel give us hope. Despite the fact that we might not understand all things, we know that God has a plan. God’s ways are not our ways, and this is why today’s celebration is called the Holy Family and not the Perfect Family. God created us uniquely and our differences are often what makes us holy.

We humans live into God’s plan. Our lives develop in mysterious ways, yet the psalmist reminds us that “Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.” Let us journey with Mary and Joseph and Jesus. Let us cast aside our hopes and expectations and seek to live God’s will and remain open to where God’s will might take us.


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