Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Readings for December 27, 2009, The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph:

Feast of the Holy Family 2009

By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
December 27, 2009

We hear very little of Jesus before his public ministry in the New Testament. We have one story of him in today's Gospel. St. Luke recalls for us how Jesus, at 12 years of age, was separated from Mary and Joseph. Mary and Joseph presumed that the young Jesus was in the caravan leaving Jerusalem after the festival. Those of us who raised boy's would not find this very unexpected. Nevertheless, in this case, Mary and Joseph were wrong. They had presumed that Jesus was among their relatives and friends. We wouldn't find this unreal, as our boy's would have been with their friends on such a trip. They did eventfully find him in the temple asking the doctors questions. I always find this interesting because this picture is not as it seems. There is a method of teaching that is called Rabbinic Argumentation. This method is a way of asking question after question until the ones questioned arrives at the right answer. This could, very will be why they were so astonished at him.

We would find it very unsettling if this were our boy and I'm betting that it has happened to every family who has a boy. Our breath and heart nearly fall from our body, at the sudden realization that the boy is lost. So must it have been with Mary and Joseph. They however must have experienced at least some pride as Jesus showed so much understanding in his exchange with the teachers of the Temple.

It is understandable that Mary would have asked, "Son why have you done this to us?" Jesus' answer is enlightening. "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" The Evangelist comments at this point that Mary and Joseph did not, however, comprehend this answer of Jesus.

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family, celebrated as we revel in the joy of the birth of the Christ Child. Today's feast and the Gospel text suggest for us the familiarity and comfort of being home.

The enjoyment of being home is not a universal phenomenon., Not even the Scriptures say this is so. All we need to do is consider the parable told by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke called the Prodigal Son.

We know that the younger son in the parable is not satisfied being at home. Why else, then, would he request prematurely his share of the estate, collect his belongings and set off to a distant country. Home, just was not the place he wanted to be at this time. The older son, even with his resentment against the younger brother and father, rather likes being at home. The father acknowledges this, too. He says to the older son, "You are here with me always."

We must be careful not to interpret "house" in an exclusively physical sense, however. Being in the Father's house carries with it the connotation that we abide in the Lord's work, that we share in the concerns he has.

On the liturgical feast dedicated to family life, we must admit candidly that the place where the family dwells, the house, is often filled with discord. Perhaps, some of the discord is the result of family members who choose against dwelling in the presence of the Lord above everything else.

Rather that it being a dwelling place of peace and security, the house is where family members fight – sometimes to the point of violence. Peace-makers are needed at kitchen tables more than they are needed at international conferences if ever we look at the statistics of domestic abuse.

In the Christmas season, we look upon Jesus as the Prince of Peace. The peace he brings to us is the fruit of reconciliation. The Son in taking on human flesh, being born in the likeness of men, reconciles the Father with his wayward adopted children.

The Incarnate Son did not just say peaceful things; he did them. The supreme peaceful act, of course, was laying down his life for us. The death of Jesus on the Cross brings about the forgiveness of sin. We must be inclined to testify to this truth with our lives, a point St. Paul makes abundantly clear in today's second reading. We must be ready to forgive one another he says, and this we all know starts in our families. This is how we change the society we live in. Family reconciliation is the stepping-stone to international reconciliation.

Jesus' work of reconciling sinful humanity with the Father is preeminently a work of restoring us to God's House. Reconciliation makes us fit as it were to dwell with the Lord. In St. John's Gospel, Jesus declares to the apostles that there are many dwelling places in the Father's house.
Inside the Father's house, with all its dwelling places, we still sit down together and dine at one at the messianic banquets. But before sitting down there, we must be reconciled. The hard work of reconciliation on earth culminates in the Eucharist.

The prodigal son, when he returns to his father's house, is received with joy. The joy of family life is not, then, in the value of the house but in the values that are lived there. Families who practice a Christ-like love in their houses are rich beyond description. The word of Christ dwells in them. Who could be wealthier than that?

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