- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

December 30, 2019

Fr.  John Denburger, OCSO

Feast of the Holy Family
Sirach 3: 2 – 6, 12 – 14; Ps 128; Colossians 3: 12 – 21; Luke 2: 41 – 52

I suppose most families have photo albums – visible histories of people, events, places that people cherish as a keepsake. Did you ever consider the Gospels as albums – not with photos – they did not exist but with word pictures of scenes, of events, of miracles and of course, and most importantly the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ? We can say that the four albums, the work of Matthew, Mark Luke and John are truly living keepsakes of the Church, of us the Body of Christ.

Sts. Matthew and Luke, in their word pictures, tell us of the events of the Nativity of the Lord; but St. Matthew recounts nothing of the period from the return of the Holy Family from Egypt to the Baptism of the Lord. However, St. Luke recounts one event from the Hidden Life of the Lord – it is the Gospel for today. There are some Scripture scholars who believe that what St. Luke recounted came from the Mother of Jesus herself.

This one event gives us an insight into the life of the Holy Family and it is an experience of misunderstanding, even of tension for all three. We know it as “The Finding in the Temple.” We can imagine the shock, the surprise of not knowing what became of the boy and we can sense what the search was for Mary and Joseph – three days of fear, of self-reproach, of chasing after clues, of heightening anxiety. Then, to add to it all, there is Jesus in the Temple and his seeming lack of concern: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

If we are ever tempted to put Mary and Joseph on pedestals above the vicissitudes of human life as if they lived in some kind of paradise, this sentence clearly rejects it: “But they did not understand what He said to them” – these very holy people graced by God to live in unique intimacy with the Son of God had to struggle with His words to them – and, perhaps more than once.

I pose a question or two for your consideration. These three unique people  experienced something that can and does happen in life – misunderstanding and this can cause great pain, deep sadness – and sometimes this misunderstanding is never healed and stays alive in one’s heart

Some questions for your reflection: In the time after this “finding” did Mary and Joseph forgive Jesus for what He had done? What about Jesus – did He ask for forgiveness for causing them anxiety? What do you think? Or was it one of those things that people never address but remains the “elephant” in the room? What do you think?

Like any passage of the Word of God, there is always a message for our own lives. I believe this Gospel of “The Finding in the Temple” has something to say about all the variations of family life that we experience and about life in those families. There is the family of humankind, the family of origin, of relatives, of friends, the family of a monastic community, the family of fellow workers and in these relationships there are occasions of misunderstanding, sometimes of deliberate selfishness, often of human weakness. Then there are the questions that arise: “How come you did that…when will you ever learn…didn’t you realize…etc., etc.,.If you have never had such an experience, then you have led a very unique life!!!

St. Paul writing to the family of faith in Colossae in a very simple yet strong sentence gives them and us the way to live as family of faith in Christ. His words: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” – notice the adverb “richly” – my brothers and sisters the Word of Christ already dwells in us through our Baptism – that Word is ours now. We gather here because we desire to live that Word. We gather here because we desire the Father through the Lord Jesus in the Holy Spirit to define our lives. We gather here in this Eucharist as a family of faith desiring to live that faith in all our family relationships. What else could this gathering mean?

After the “finding” St. Luke reports: “He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them” – for us, I propose, Nazareth is more than a place – it denotes a spirit that marks us as God’s family – it is the spirit of obedience – of living in a rich relationship of faith – of heartfelt compassion, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love. These are the lasting gifts we give to any family and are given to us.

This morning at Vigils we chanted an antiphon that is most fitting for this Feast of the Holy Family: “On this day instruct us, O divine Teacher, that we may belong to the household of God as members of His living Temple. FOR OUR LIVES HAVE NO MEANING EXCEPT IN GOD.”