SMC 30 December 2018
In this year, YEAR C of the Lectionary Cycle, we may be forgiven if we are a bit surprised at the Gospel reading for the Feast of the Holy Family for it tells us of Our Lord being found in the Temple at Jerusalem when he was just twelve years old. Mary and Joseph were, to put it simply, at their wits end following the disappearance of the Holy Child from the caravan returning to Galilee and then finding Him in the temple discussing with doctors of the Law must have come as a great shock – especially when he asks them: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father`s business”. However we are told that this apparently disobedient child was from that moment totally obedient to his earthly parents.
Holy Mother Church tells us that we should take the Holy Family as the perfect example of Family Life but they are hardly the Family next door though, increasingly it seems, children are conceived out of wedlock fairly frequently in our own age. Jesus was certainly conceived out of wedlock but then His Father was the first person of the Holy Trinity and he was conceived in the womb of Mary His Mother by the power of the Holy Spirit with Joseph manfully stepping in at God`s invitation as his protector and foster-father.
We have been prepared for the unusualness of the situation by the story of Abram and Sarai his wife and the miraculous birth of their Son, Isaac, showing that nothing is impossible to God and the obedience of Abraham and Abraham`s being put to the test in being prepared to sacrifice his son, Isaac. And the fulfilment of the promise of God to Abraham that his descendents would be more numerous than the grains of sand on the seashore. Also, the short reading from Ecclesiasticus chapter 3 reminds us of how the Lord upholds the right of a mother over her sons and has some wonderful things to say about how children are to treat their parents. This is perhaps why we know so little about the life of Jesus from the age of twelve to the age of thirty. We hear no more in scripture about the foster-father of Jesus, St. Joseph, though it is likely that Mary had become a widow and Jesus, in loving-obedience both to the Law of Moses and to His earthly parents carried on the small family carpenter`s business to sustain both Mary and himself in compassion and obedience until his baptism, reluctantly, by Cousin John in the waters of the River Jordan from which time, after the seclusion of forty days in the Wilderness of Judea, where he was, apparently, discerning the will of His Heavenly Father, for the three-year ministry he was to carry out, for the most part, in Galilee which, we forget, was at the centre of an international trading area from north to south and east to west. The Lord`s ministry was not just to the Chosen People but, by its very location, having an international influence.
All the readings are, in fact, about response and loving obedience. Firstly, the call of the Old Testament, and then that of Mary and Joseph who in one sense, having accepted that call to bring into the world the Son of God, got on with the business of the Jewish Rites of purification and of the redemption of their child who is truly in his Divine Nature the second person of the Holy Trinity and then the years in exile in Egypt until the death of King Herod in AD 6 or even after.
The lesson for us is very much the same lesson that came to Mary and Joseph in so many ways in the time that both led up to the birth of the Son of God and, indeed, the revelations they received to protect him from Herod and to escape into Egypt. The lessons are simple, that we must have faith, discernment to understand and perceive what God is asking of each one of us – and, perceiving, to obey His divine will. It is this kind of obedience that will set us up in the right way as we approach this New Year and as we give thanks for the blessings of the past year and look forward in hope for what God , in His mercy, has in store for each of us.
Amen – and a Happy New Year.