The Feast of the Holy Family is the one feast day that I always remember because it is the one day when we get to see Jesus as a teenager. It is the one day when I could easily put myself in the scene and imagine the experience from the perspective of everyone involved. Everyone here is or was a child at one time, and some of us are fortunate enough to be the parent of child, even if they’re grown-up now.
So I’m going to ask everyone to close your eyes and put yourself in the scene…
Imagine your parents out looking for you because you weren’t where they thought you were going to be. You know they’d be concerned. Think about what the reaction would have been if you had looked at them and said, as Jesus did,“Why are you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
I can assure you that if I had ever answered my parents that way it would not have ended well for me! And if any of our children had answered Mary or me that way… let me just say that I’m not so sure my response would have been very Christ like.
But that is the beauty of the Holy Family. They are the model that all of us should to try and live up to. And not just when, as children we answer our parents back, or as parents we want to discipline them for answering us back, but always.
As I look back over my life, and I’m sure if you think about yours, we have all had many times when we should have looked to the model of the Holy Family for guidance and direction. I mean think about the life that the Holy Family lived. We need to compare it to our own experiences. Then we get to ask the question that we don’t really want to think about.
Did we live up to the model?
- We’ve all been misunderstood at times, right? But have any of us ever been in the position that Mary and Joseph were in when Mary conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit? I’m sure the answer is no, but look at the grace that the Holy Family showed in dealing with that situation.
- How about when the time came for Mary to deliver Jesus. Did they complain about the conditions? There is no record of Mary and Joseph complaining. How would any of us react if, when we got to the hospital we were told “Sorry, no room…you can set-up camp in the parking lot.”
- Then of course there is the story in today’s Gospel. Mary and Joseph’s response isn’t spelled out for us, but we are told that they “didn’t understand” and that Mary “kept all of these things in her heart.” Is that what any of us would do if our 12-year-old child disappeared for three days? I doubt it!
Of course the examples go on, and I’m sure if any of us think about it for a while we can find examples from our own lives that, when we can compare the situation to the life of the Holy Family we can ask ourselves… Did we live up to the model?
I know from trying to compare my own life to the model it’s not always easy to make the connection. Life is busy, times are certainly not what they were 2000 years ago, there are distractions everywhere.
But there is one situation from my life that I have grown old enough to have experienced as both a child and as a parent. Funny thing is that it should have been fairly easy for me to make this connection to the story in today’s Gospel.
When I was a young adult, still living at home with my parents my mother would nag me about where I was going, who I would be with, what time I would be home… it never ended, and I thought to myself, what is her problem? I can take care of myself! What is her problem, doesn’t she trust me?
Then as a parent, when our children were young adults (in their minds anyway, still children in my mind) I found myself asking them the same questions.
And suddenly I understood why my mother would nag me for information, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY why Mary and Joseph were as concerned as they were when they couldn’t find Jesus for 3 days. Mary and Joseph, like my mother (she did enough worrying for my father too) simply wanted to know that their children are safe, and to have a place to start looking for them when they are not where they should be.
So here it is in a nut shell.
- As children we need to look to the Holy Family as a model of respect and obedience. Our parents love and care for us and only want what is best for us.
- As parents we need to look to the Holy Family as the model that shows us to trust that we have taught our children, and that they have learned to live life in accordance with what we have taught them. It won’t always be easy, and our children will not always make the decision that we would make for them.
But, if we follow the model of the Holy Family we will find peace in the knowledge that God, who knows our weaknesses and shortcoming when dealing with family situations, will always be with us. He will walk with us regardless of the situation that our families find ourselves in.