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FAMILY BOND AND MISSION

Read­ing Time: 8 minutes

(Ref. Texts: 1Sam 1:20–22.24–28; 1John 3:1–2.21–24; Luke 2:41–52)

I describe fam­ily val­ues as respons­ib­il­ity towards oth­ers, increase of tol­er­ance, com­prom­ise, sup­port, flex­ib­il­ity. And essen­tially the things I call the silent song of life-the con­tinu­ous pro­cess of mutu­al accom­mod­a­tion without which life is impossible” (S. Minuchin).

Introduction

Once more, happy Christ­mas and com­pli­ments of the sea­son! The Church in her wis­dom ded­ic­ates the Sunday in the Octave of Christ­mas, that is, the Sunday fol­low­ing the Christ­mas Day to the fam­il­ies, rep­res­en­ted by the Naz­areth fam­ily, com­posed of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. That is, fath­er, moth­er and son. Some­times, it is dif­fi­cult to present this fam­ily as a mod­el for oth­er fam­il­ies. The reas­on is that this is a fam­ily where the super­nat­ur­al dom­in­ated and greatly influ­enced the human dimen­sion. That not­with­stand­ing, this was a fam­ily were fath­er, moth­er and child feared God and walked in God’s way. It is on this aspect that it is presen­ted as a mod­el of every Chris­ti­an fam­ily. It was a respons­ible and godly fam­ily. The super­nat­ur­al dimen­sion does not in any way oblit­er­ate the nat­ur­al respons­ib­il­ity of par­ents and fam­il­ies. Hence, Luke spe­cifies that when Jesus went down to Naz­areth with his par­ents, he was obed­i­ent to them. And Jesus grew in wis­dom and matur­ity, and in favour with God and the people (cf. Luke 2:49–52). This means the par­ents played their roles as parents.

The feast of the holy fam­ily of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is part of the Christ­mas peri­od. The Gos­pel of this Sunday should be placed and read in the con­text of what Luke’s report about the birth of Jesus. The Gos­pel con­tin­ues to cla­ri­fy the iden­tity of Jesus which Luke tries answer­ing with the stor­ies of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. With the Gos­pel of this Sunday and the stor­ies of John and Jesus, Luke keeps answer­ing the ques­tion “Who is Jesus?” It has no par­al­lel in the oth­er Gos­pels and it is the con­clu­sion of Luke’s Infancy Narrative.

The family attends the feast

Now every year his par­ents went to Jer­u­s­alem for the fest­iv­al of the Pas­sov­er. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usu­al for the fest­iv­al” (Luke 2:41–42). This par­ti­cip­a­tion in the annu­al feast shows the reli­gious com­mit­ment of the holy fam­ily. Accord­ing to the Jew­ish tra­di­tion, at least thrice in the year, every male was expec­ted to appear before the Sov­er­eign Lord. Such occa­sions were at the Feast of Unleavened Bread (includ­ing the Pas­sov­er); the Feast of Weeks (or of Har­vest); and the Feast of Tab­er­nacles (or of Ingath­er­ing).[1] In oth­er words, every male must travel to Jer­u­s­alem dur­ing the major annu­al feasts. As a human fam­ily, the holy fam­ily obeyed the law of her reli­gion. It was after one of these feasts (pre­cisely, the feast of Pas­sov­er) that Jesus’ par­ents for­got him in Jer­u­s­alem. Or bet­ter, it was after this feast that Jesus stayed back while his par­ents thought he was lost. As obed­i­ent and law abid­ing par­ents, and with Jesus their son, Mary and Joseph par­ti­cip­ated in the annu­al pil­grim­age to Jer­u­s­alem for the feast of Pas­sov­er, an event shared each year with fam­ily and friends. The feast of the Pas­sov­er was the open­ing feast of the feast of the unleavened Bread that las­ted sev­en days (cf. Lev 23:5–6). It is always good to keep and obey the laws of our vari­ous communities.

Jesus stays behind

When the fest­iv­al was ended and they star­ted to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jer­u­s­alem, but his par­ents did not know it. Assum­ing that he was in the group of trav­el­lers, they went a day’s jour­ney. Then they star­ted to look for him among their rel­at­ives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jer­u­s­alem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sit­ting among the teach­ers, listen­ing to them and ask­ing them ques­tions” (Luke 2:43–46). When Jesus is found, Luke describes him as seated in the Temple in the midst of the Jew­ish teach­ers. Although he is young, Jesus seems not to need teach­ing about his Jew­ish tra­di­tion prob­ably because his par­ents espe­cially, his fath­er taught him well. In his dia­logue with the learned teach­ers in the temple, Jesus astounds them with his insight and under­stand­ing. Jesus is a child of Israel.

At first sight, this story of Jesus’ par­ents for­get­ting their son appears funny and doubt­ful. If it were today and in a civ­il­ized soci­ety, they would have been accused of care­less­ness and child aban­don­ment. How could Joseph and Mary travel back home without look­ing for their child pre­sum­ing he was with oth­er rela­tions? Why should they pre­sume? After all, this is not the first time they are tak­ing him to this feast. Why is it that it is at the twelfth year that this happened? This cer­tainly, is a nar­rat­ive tac­tic deployed by Luke to under­line and por­tray the per­son­al­ity of Jesus and his mis­sion. In oth­er words, Jesus stay­ing back was not a mis­take as Mary and Joseph thought. It is part of his being the Immanu’el. It is part of the divine arrange­ment. His answer to Mary con­firms this. When Mary his moth­er finally saw him and told him how wor­ried they have been, Jesus said to her “why were you look­ing for me? Do you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). In oth­er words, he was not lost. His stay­ing back was part of his salvif­ic mission.

At twelve years, Jesus is without doubt an adult, accord­ing to Jew­ish cul­ture. Hence, he can now begin to pre­pare for his mis­sion by sit­ting in the midst of the doc­tors of the Law and experts in Scrip­ture and listen­ing to them as they read and inter­preted the Torah and the entire word of God. To find Jesus, the par­ents must return to Jer­u­s­alem, not among his rela­tions. Jesus’ place is not among his rel­at­ives, but in God’s house, and among the experts in the Word of God. Some­times, we look for people or for some­thing in the wrong places. It is true that Jesus said seek and you shall find (cf. Matt 7:7), mind you, he means, if and only if you look for the right thing or per­son and in the right place and at the prop­er time, else, you will not find any­thing. Look­ing for Jesus among his rela­tions is like look­ing for the liv­ing among the dead, or the dead among the liv­ing. Jesus can only be found in Jer­u­s­alem study­ing and med­it­at­ing on the Word of God to com­pre­hend the sense of his mission.

As indic­ated above, when even­tu­ally his par­ents found him in the Temple, and told him how they have been search­ing for him, Jesus said to them: “Why were you look­ing for me? Do you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). If any child today should respond to his par­ents in this man­ner, that child would be scol­ded. Prac­tic­ally, Jesus tells his par­ents that they should not both­er them­selves look­ing for him because he must con­cern him­self with the affairs of his Fath­er. In oth­er words, they should stop dis­tract­ing him. This was not in any way, a form of dis­obedi­ence and dis­respect on the part of Jesus. It is put­ting things aright. In fact, as Luke noted, imme­di­ately, Jesus went home with his par­ents and was sub­missive to them, grow­ing in wis­dom and matur­ity, and increased in favour with God and the people (cf. Luke 2:51–52). This is a great chal­lenge to the con­tem­por­ary par­ents. How do they train and edu­cate their chil­dren? What kind of form­a­tion do they give to them? Do they have time for them at all or do they use their whole in pur­suit of wealth alone? Chil­dren must be trained and prop­erly too.

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