Feast of the Holy Family:
Jesus, Mary, & Joseph
- · Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
- · Quote of the Day
- · Today’s Gospel Reading
- · Gospel Reflection
- · Reflection Prayer
Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:
For Middle-Eastern Christians: that the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Mike depue, OFS is a dear friend of mine, a brother in the Secular Franciscan Order, and the St. Clare OFS Region’s JPIC Coordinator. He wrote this beautiful piece on the Christmas “Caroling” tradition. Surprising (to me), Christmas Caroling was started by St. Francis and other Franciscans. I hope you enjoy this bit of historical CHRISTmas trivia from Mike:
Blessings to all!
Did you know that Francis of Assisi began the Christmas caroling tradition in the early 1200s? Francis wanted people to be able to express their joy at Christmas by singing simple songs themselves, wherever they happened to be, such as in their own homes or even while walking around outside. Francis also wanted to present the Christmas story in a way that ordinary people could best understand. Priests had been singing formal Christmas hymns in church worship services since AD 129, when a bishop called for a song called “Angel’s Hymn” to be featured in a Mass in Rome, Italy. However, these Christmas hymns were in Latin, which wasn’t a commonly spoken language by the 1200s. Francis decided to add religious lyrics to popular tunes of his time, creating the style of song called a Christmas carol. The word “carol” derives from the French word “caroler,” which means “dancing around in a circle.” It refers to the pagan tradition of people dancing around in a circle during the Winter Solstice. Francis wanted people to express their joy in Christ in a similar, uninhibited style.
It was almost certainly through the Franciscans that Christmas carols came to the British Isles. The earliest extant English Christmas carol, “A child is boren” (given below), is found in a set of sermon notes written by a Franciscan friar before 1350. Collections of poems produced by friars in Scotland in 1372 contain lullabies to the infant Jesus.
“A child is boren” in the English of today:
Let us gather hand in hand / And sing of bliss without an end: / The Devil has fled from earthly land, / And Son of God is made our friend. / A Child is born in man’s abode, / And in that Child no blemish showed. / That Child is God, that Child is Man, / And in that Child our life began.
I wish you all a peaceful and blessed Christmas!
Mike [DePue] ofs
Do you really know the living Jesus – not from books but from being with Him in your heart? Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you? Ask for the grace; He is longing to give it. Until you can hear Jesus in the silence of your own heart, you will not be able hear Him saying, “I thirst” in the hearts of the poor. Never give up daily intimate contact with Jesus as the real living person – not just the idea. ~ Taken from “When Did We See You, Lord?” by Bishop Robert J. Baker & Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.
Today’s reflection: The boy Jesus is found in the Temple, with the Temple teachers, listening and asking. When was the last time you truly listened and asked?
(NAB Luke 2:41-52) 41 Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, 42 and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. 43 After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, 47 and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.
Today we celebrate the “Feast of the Holy Family”. We should place today’s Gospel in the context of what Luke tells us about the birth of Jesus during. Luke has been answering the question “Who is Jesus?” through his stories of the births of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ (Chapters 1 & 2). Today’s Gospel reading continues this same theme: “Who Jesus IS”.
Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are presented as a faithful Jewish family. In today’s story, they are participating in the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the “Feast of Passover”, an event shared each year with family and friends. When Jesus is found, Luke describes Him as seated “in the Temple in the midst of the Jewish teachers”. Although He is young, Jesus seems to NOT need teaching about His Jewish religion and traditions. In His dialogue with these “learned” teachers (Rabbi’s), Jesus “astounds” them with His insight and understanding. This event was the important turning point in Jesus’ earthly life when He shifted the name “father” from Joseph, addressing it to God, His Father in heaven instead.
With this Gospel reading, the infancy narrative ends – – just as it began – – in the setting of the Jerusalem Temple. This particular story today, is about an incident from Jesus’ youth, and is unique in, and to, Luke’s Gospel. Luke’s Gospel is the only Gospel to report of Jesus being “lost in the temple”. Thus, Luke assumes and presents Jesus in the role of a faithful Jewish boy, raised in the traditions of Israel, fulfilling all that the Mosaic Law requires of a boy His age for Him to become a Jewish “man”.
Today’s story starts with the Holy Family in Jerusalem for the “Feast of the Passover”, a high holy day (days) in the Jewish religion:
“Each year His parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when He [Jesus] was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom” (Luke 2:41-42).
This Jewish holy feast was prescribed from the time of the Jewish exodus from Egypt. The reason for this feast was to remember and celebrating God’s interaction in the Jewish “chosen” people’s lives, allowing the Jewish faithful to escape their oppressive captivity:
“You will keep this practice forever as a statute for yourselves and your descendants. Thus, when you have entered the land which the LORD will give you as he promised, you must observe this rite. When your children ask you, ‘What does this rite of yours mean?’ you will reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice for the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt; when he struck down the Egyptians, he delivered our houses.’ Then the people knelt and bowed down” (Exodus 12:24–27);
And, also in Exodus, the time when this feast is to take place each year:
“You shall keep the feast of Unleavened Bread. As I have commanded you, you must eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for it was then that you came out of Egypt. No one shall appear before me empty-handed” (Exodus 23:15);
“Abib” is the time of the year, the name of the month, in which the barley harvest happened. “Abib” translates to “ear of grain, or, ripe grain” and corresponds to our present months of March and April. At a later time, the month of “Abib” became known as the Babylonian name of “Nisan” instead.
Only males aged 12 and over were required to make this yearly journey of faith. This clearly puts Jesus at this age, since this is His first time going to Jerusalem for the feast. How far did they have to travel? Well, Nazareth is about 60 miles from Jerusalem (in a straight line on a map). However, with the “hilly” nature of the country, this trip would actually be about 85 miles. This is definitely a long way to walk, especially for women and children, every year.
On pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the Jews used to travel in two linked-groups: one of men, followed closely by another of women. Children could go with either group, probably depending on age and sex of the child. No wonder Mary and Joseph travelled for a full day’s journey before discovering the child Jesus missing. They probably “discovered” Him gone when regrouping to camp for the night, each thinking Jesus was with the other group.
Just try to imagine the anxiety and fear Mary and Joseph were experiencing. Mary certainly was crying, with both of them running to the various family camps, searching for, and inquiring about Jesus’ whereabouts in each of the camps; discovering He is NOWHERE to be found! I personally have had the anguish of “losing” one of my kids for just a few minutes. I cannot even imagine the fear of realizing a child of mine was left behind in a strange and very threatening environment of a “big city” like Jerusalem.
Hmm, here’s a notion or thought for you about “concern for Jesus”. The concern Mary and Joseph had in “looking for” Jesus might, and should, encourage each of us to personally, and always, seek out Jesus in our own daily lives. This idea is especially true if we “lose” Him through our sins.
Jesus was probably found in the courtyard area of the Temple; this is where the “teachers” – – the “rabbi’s” – – taught. “Listeners” used to sit on the ground at their feet, asking questions, and responding to questions asked of them. The four “Rabbinic” ways of teaching are:
- · “exegesis” – – literal, plain teachings and interpretations; following “hints” in words, phrases, and other elements of truth;
- · “eisegesis” – – an allegorical or homiletical application of a text, searching or reading one’s own thoughts into the text, and then expounding on them;
- · finding the “secret” “mystical or hidden meaning” of Jewish Scripture by using the numerical values of the Hebrew letters in Scripture, noting unusual spellings, by transposing letters, and so on;
- · through parables:
- o as an illustration to help grasp a concept or teaching;
- o as a “secret speech”, to deliberately minimize or conceal a concept;
- o as a rhetorical narrative in order to draw a parallel between a fictional story and one’s reality in life.
The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” (CCC) says of Jesus’ teaching through parables and secrets:
“Jesus’ invitation to enter His kingdom comes in the form of ‘parables’, a characteristic feature of His teaching. Through His parables He invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but He also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough, deeds are required. … Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to ‘know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven’. For those who stay ‘outside’, everything remains enigmatic [mysterious]” (CCC, paragraph 546).
One third of Jesus’ teachings consisted of parables. It is importance for us to not only try to understand the “Rabbinic ways of teaching” – – especially the parables – – from OUR viewpoint, but to understand them in their cultural, historic and linguistic context of Jesus’ time as well.
So, Jesus was sitting at the Rabbi’s feet, listening, and asking questions. However, His questions and answers attracted a great interest from the “teachers”! Jesus was obviously well informed and well taught, in the eyes of these religious men. If they only realized the truth about this “boy” sitting among them!!
Not only were the “teachers” astounded, so were Jesus’ parents when they saw Him sitting and conversing with the learned religious men:
“When His parents saw Him, they were astonished” (Luke 2:48).
Ever since the Annunciation, Mary (and Joseph) knew that her (their) child, Jesus, WAS GOD!! Mary’s pure and true faith is the foundational bedrock for her generous fidelity to her Son, Jesus, throughout her entire life. There was no reason for Mary to know every detail about the sacrifices Jesus – – her Son, her GOD – – would ask of HER! Nor, did Mary have reason to know how Jesus Christ would go about His mission of redemption and salvation. The revelation of Jesus’ mission would be “discovered” as time went by, and while living and contemplating her Son’s life, death, resurrection, and assumption as it happened, and remembered.
Mary and Joseph asked Jesus why He stayed behind when their group departed for Nazareth:
“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48).
I am pretty sure I would NOT have been as stoic (showing patience and endurance) as Mary and Joseph was upon finding MY son, in this situation. If my twelve year son purposely stayed behind, and not told anyone, I probably would have been augmenting my questions with unique “actions” as well: first, a hug and kiss – – then, “something else”.
Jesus’ reply is His explanation of why he did such a “foolish” thing:
“Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).
These are the very first “Words” Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel. In His saying, “I must be in my Father’s house”, Jesus is referring to God the Father as HIS Father!! It also shows Jesus’ divine “Sonship”, His determination, and His obedience to fulfilling His Eternal Father’s “will”; a “Sonship” which will take precedence over His ties to His earthly family. Jesus does not chastise Mary and Joseph for searching for Him. But He does raise their attention, their souls, to understanding and appreciating what He owes to His Eternal Father, whose Eternal Son – – He is!! Jesus’ parents must have realized that His reply contained a deeper meaning they could not grasp (at that time):
“But they did not understand what he said to them” (Luke 2:50).
They did grow to understand the revelation of their Son’s life, as it unfolded – – as it was revealed – – before their eyes. Mary and Joseph’s faith, and their reverence to their incarnated child, led them to not ask any further questions. Instead, they “reflected” Jesus’ “Words” and “actions” in this occurrence, and as they will do on many other occasions in His and their lives:
“Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
Jesus, in His youth, recognized He had been given a “call” by His heavenly Father. While Jesus recognized His unique call, He, nonetheless, submitted Himself – – with love and obedience – – to Joseph and Mary, waiting for the time when His “call” would be fulfilled.
Our Heavenly Father also calls each of us to a unique task and mission in this earthly life. We may not discover or understand it fully, but if we cooperate with God, He will use us for His righteous purpose and plan. With any call, God also gives a grace – – a grace to say “yes” to His will, and a grace to persevere through any obstacles and trials we encounter. It is truly an awesome feeling to recognize God’s “call” in one’s life. It is also an awesome feeling to trust in His grace. Give it a try the next time He “calls” YOU!! I cannot even describe the AWE and JOY of answering His calling!!
Today’s Gospel sums up Jesus’ life in Nazareth in a few simple words of the second to last verse:
“[He] was obedient to them” (Luke 2:51).
Jesus, the “Second Person” of the Holy Trinity, came to earth to “obey” God the Father – – and to obey His earthly “beings”, though Mary and Joseph are very special “beings” indeed! We have to love God so as to love His will and desire in responding to His calls. God’s will and desire comes to us through our ordinary daily duties: family, friends, work, private, public. His will and desire come to us through our own – – and other’s – – difficulties and relationships, and in our eagerness to do what is right and just in life.
“And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52).
A similar phrase, “growing in spirit”, is used two times in Luke’s Gospel:
“The child [John the Baptist] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80);
“The child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40).
Luke is the only Gospel writer to connect John the Baptist – – who also “grew in age and favor” – – establishing John’s early direct-relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, some thirty years before Jesus’ public ministry. The key element in these three verses above is that both of these two great “beings” grew in age, spirit, wisdom, and favor before God the Father. I personally believe we can also add Mary and Joseph to this extremely unique twosome of people – – models for how to live a “Christ-like” life.
Jesus lived like other people in Nazareth, working in the same trade as His “earthly” father, Joseph. Just as any other tradesman, Jesus learned His living by the “sweat of His brow”. Details of Jesus’ life are blank – – to us – – for nearly twenty years. However, Jesus’ ENTIRE life is an example of how to be a Christian. We are to sanction – – to SANCTIFY – – our unique and individual vocations, our paths in life, through years of our quiet, often humdrum, and mostly unspectacular living – – in, with, and through Him! Being in the midst of our individual “ordinary” lives does not mean God has forgotten about any of us. Being in the midst of our individual “ordinary” lives does not mean God hasn’t called you or me for an important role in His kingdom. God wants us to know that each of us, in our own personal vocations, professions, and talents, are not absent from His divine plan. Instead, with God – – in our lives – – has sanctified them, making them a more acceptable offering to Him. WOW!!
The dialogue between Mary and Jesus contains many references to family relationships. Interestingly Mary and Joseph are never identified by name. (I bet you didn’t catch this fact.) Instead, they are referred to by their relationship to Jesus. Ultimately, this style of writing emphasizes Luke’s point about the identity of Jesus.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is asked a pointed question, “Why?” Jesus responds with an equally pointed response, “I must be!” Jesus did not intend to cause his mother and step-father any distress. However, His actions most-likely provoked that type of response. When Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple, they question Jesus, expressing their anxiety. Jesus replies in “Words” that many of us may believe to be disrespectful. Jesus, in fact, is saying He was never lost; He is God’s Son; and He was at home in God’s “house”. Luke will continue throughout His Gospel to suggest that faith in Jesus establishes “new” family relationships as He describes Jesus’ public ministry in his later chapters. Luke is also telling us, through his Gospel, that Mary’s importance is even greater than her role as Jesus’ mother. Remember, Mary is the first disciple, also present with Jesus’ other disciples after His Resurrection at Pentecost.
In the Holy Family, we see the face of God’s love. As Jesus told us – – and as my Order’s founder, Saint Francis of Assisi lived – – we need to see the face of God in every single person we encounter, not just in the one’s we love. If we see fear instead of love in others who are different from us, we are not seeing God!!
We need to be in the presence of God every second of every minute of every day, not just for one hour on Sundays, and not just with people who are like us. If we do not see the face of God in the marginalized – – the sick, the homeless person, the unborn child – – then God will not dwell within us. Others will look at us, seeing fear instead of God’s love.
So, let us sing with great joy (Re-JOY-SING) at the celebration of the our Lord’s birth and the gift of the Holy Family to each of us, who are inviting each us into God’s – – HIS – – family forever and ever. Let us also renew our commitment, on a daily basis, to do as Jesus told us: to take up our cross and follow Him. Let EVERYONE who sees us see also the face of God, knowing His love through us.
Today’s Gospel describes a time of anxiety in the life of Jesus’ family. We can imagine their panic and worry as Mary and Joseph discovered Jesus was not with the caravan of people returning to Nazareth. The Holy Family journeyed with family members and friends because traveling alone was dangerous. When they found Jesus at the Temple, it appears Jesus spoke like a typical adolescent, unsympathetic to His parents’ concern. But, His “Words” teach an important lesson about reducing anxiety in our family life. In essence, Jesus says to them:
“If you had remembered who I am, you would have known where to find me.”
In their panic, Mary and Joseph had forgotten what had been told to them before Jesus’ birth, their son was the Son of God. Knowing a person well helps reduce our anxieties for them because we can better predict how they will behave, and we know their capacity to handle the challenges that life might present to them.
Recall times when you learned something, even something trivial, about your close friend and/or family members. Recall times when YOU told others something which possibly “startled” or “surprised” them. Now, recall how you felt in each of these “revealing” “revelations”.
Take what you have learned from this simple exercise you just reflected on, and reread the questions and answers in today’s Gospel, placing yourself in the roles of the one asking AND the one being asked:
“Son, why have you done this to us?” (Luke 2:48);
“Why were you looking for me?” (Luke 2:49);
“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).
Hmm, the one thing about “true” relationships is that we come to eventually learn to know each other well.
“A Relationship Prayer”
“Lord, teach me how to love in a way that would be pleasing to You. Open my eyes and heart so as to be receptive to the needs in my life, and not just for my wants.
Grant me wisdom, direction, purpose, confidence, discernment, and any other tool needed by me for this great journey with, in, and through You. Wipe away any and all fears, tears, and doubts, created by my sometimes tumultuous relationship past.
Create in me a new heart filled with a deep and abiding love for You above all else, then for others, and finally for myself. When the right person comes along, bless me with clarity of vision to see that this is indeed the right person for me. When this person does come, I will never forget who made it all possible. In each day, I will strive to exhibit a love that would make You proud.
With a fullness of heart, and a sincerity in my spirit, I ask this all in your name. Amen.”
Based on a prayer at the following website: