Homily for the feast of the Holy Family - Year C - Lk. 2:41-52


by

Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
 
 

" Now the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day's journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, «Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.» And he said to them, «How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?» And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man. "




Homily:


" Now the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it. "


A few days ago, we celebrated the Birth of the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, on the Sunday of the Octave of the Nativity, the Church invites us to honor the three people who make up the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The birth of the Savior of the world is a true mystery, that of the Child-God, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of a Virgin: Mary. Consequently, there is no doubt that the Holy Family is not like other families, but that it too is a mystery. Moreover, is not every family a mystery? Is not the union of two individuals, a man and a woman, for the purpose of the generation of children in love, a mystery?


All men and women, whoever they may be, are individuals: each person has something in himself that belongs to him alone, and which is impossible for him to communicate to anyone else - anyone else other that God, the Creator of all things. Consequently, no union between two individuals, in this case a man and a woman, can truly exist without if something mysterious, acting as a solvent or a catalyst, facilitates the union between the man and woman. This mysterious "something" is the child whom they have the intention to procreate together, the child whose soul will be created by God himself in His image and likeness.


This mysterious something linked to the child is, intrinsically, a spiritual, invisible, and undetectable element... But, one fine day, that which is spiritual takes form and manifests itself, for the child is not a pure spirit: he, like his father and mother, has both a soul and a body. So, the mystery begins to be revealed, little by little... The more the family is united in love and in the grace of God, the more astounding the mystery will be as it reveals itself, for it will be greater, deeper, and more splendid! In the case of the Holy Family, there is no doubt that this mystery will be the greatest it can ever be. But given that this is so, one must not be astonished if this mystery cannot be explained in a humanly comprehensible way. This was the case when Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem: "The boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it."


" Supposing him to be in the company they went a day's journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. "


Three days! Joseph and Mary sought Jesus for three days! These three days were endless for them, they hardly ate anything and had very little sleep... What parents would have undergone these three days any differently? Truly, these were the Holy Family's three most difficult days: of course, this was a great trial for Joseph and Mary, but so was it for Jesus himself, who knew very well everything that his parents had to endure... These three days remind us of three others: the three days, according to Jewish reckoning, between the Death and the Resurrection of the Lord, three more days of trials... for Mary.


" And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, «Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.» And he said to them, «How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?» And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. "


Once the Child-Jesus was found in the Temple, with the teachers, Mary could not keep herself from reproaching him: "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously." This is understandable. Any parents, even those powerfully aided by the grace of God, as were Joseph and Mary, would have acted in the same way upon finding a son who had left them for a time. But, although Joseph and Mary questioned their child with the greatest tenderness, which is something very meritorious, considering the circumstances, it served no purpose: they did not understand Jesus' reply: "And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them."


This was the holiest of families: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. And yet the parents are unable to completely understand their child! The mystery remains! Why? Quite simply because there is, in any family, an image of the Most Holy Trinity: whether it be a father and a mother who have one child or more (or whether they simply intend to have children), all of these people are called to realize with each other, on earth, what the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit live in heaven for all eternity...


" And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man. "


This incident had a happy ending! But how rich in teaching it is for everyone! Firstly, for Mary: "His mother kept all these things in her heart." And then for Joseph. Joseph does not say anything: the evangelist does not tell us what he might have said. But he understood very well that all of this was done primarily for him. For Joseph was to die before Jesus began his public life, and this event in the life of Jesus, in full possession of his reason and intelligence, was the only one that Joseph was granted to live here on earth, as he awaited the promised redemption...


May we share a little in the mystery of the Holy Family! Let us ask for this favor and grace during today's Eucharist: that we, through Mary, may one day live what Joseph contemplated once in his life!



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