Holy Family, Year C – 15
1Sam.1:20-22, 24-28/ 1Jn.3:1 – 2, 21 – 24 / Lk.2:41-52
A mother was shocked to hear her son tell a lie. Taking the youngster aside for a heart to heart talk, she graphically explained what happened to liars. “A tall black man with red fiery eyes and two sharp horns grabs little boys who tell lies and carries them off at night.
He takes them to Mars where they have to work in a dark canyon for fifty years! Now” she concluded, “you won’t tell a lie again, will you, dear?” “No, Mum, replied the son, gravely, but…But……you tell better lies Mum!”
Children learn to tell lies from the elders. With them it does not work to say, “Do as I tell and not as I do.”
Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. So, inevitably the focus will be on family life. And when we look at the family, just what kind of analogy could we use to describe a family?
Maybe I would say that the family is like a fruit cake – mostly sweet and with some nuts; some may have more nuts! Nonetheless, we still have to admit that family life, although like a fruit cake, can be quite messy.
It’s said that a family is like a social unit that is concerned with some kind of space. The father is concerned with parking space, the children are concerned with outer space, the mother is concerned with looking for space.
And when the family has to share the same space, that is where challenges come in. Because problems can arise when we feel that our own space is encroached upon or has been trespassed. And when our space is encroached upon or is trespassed, then communications become fragile and tensed.
We will be quick to speak and to scorch, but we will not be that ready to listen with attention. Let me quote from a poem entitled “Harsh Words”:
I ran into a stranger as he passed by, “Oh excuse me, please” was my reply.
He said, “Please excuse me too, I wasn’t watching for you.”
We were very polite, this stranger and I. We went on our way saying good-bye.
But at home, a difference is told, how we treat our loved ones, young and old.
Later that day, while cooking the evening meal, my son stood beside me very still.
As I turned, I nearly knocked him down. “Move out of the way!” I said with a frown.
It so ironic, isn’t it, that while dealing with strangers, common courtesy we use.
But with family and loved ones, we seem to abuse.
In today’s gospel, we heard about Mary and Joseph, and the 12 year-old Jesus going to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. It was an annual event for them but this time round something happened. After the feast, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, without his parents knowing.
Needless to say, Mary and Joseph must have panicked during those three days until they found Him in the temple. The gospel passage simply said that they were overcome when they saw Him, but that said a lot about how Mary and Joseph felt – the anxiety, the stress, the frustration, the anger (?).
And we can certainly feel the seriousness of the tone in what Mary said to Jesus, “My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been looking for you.”
And the reply of Jesus was nowhere near consoling, and as if that was not enough, it was also confusing to say the least. That would have easily erupted into a parent-child quarrel and harsh words would fly about to cut and scorch.
Yet, no further words were exchanged, maybe because Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus meant. But Mary stored up all these things in her heart. Joseph might be thinking that it would be easier to build a house for God than to raise the Son of God.
Yes, whether it is the Son of God or not, it was never easy to be parents and it never will be. Yes, there is that 5th Commandment – Honor your father and your mother, but we all know that we have broken that commandment time and again.
Yet as much as that 5th Commandment is directed at children, there is also an underlying spiritual aspect to it. This underlying spiritual aspect is that parents have this God-given authority over their children.
But this authority is not to be used to drive their children to resentment and make them feel frustrated. Over and above, the duty to care for their children and to provide for their needs, parents have a spiritual authority over their children.
It means that when parents pray for their children, God will surely listen to their prayers. And it is not just praying for them when they are applying for entry into a particular school or university, and when they are taking their exams.
Parents will have to exercise their spiritual authority over their children when they are ill, when they have gone wayward, when they are in trouble or in danger. Parents have this power to call upon God’s protection and blessing over their children.
And that is why it is so important that parents understand and exercise this spiritual power. And it is so essential that parents must pray together in order that this spiritual power be manifested and bear spiritual fruits in their children.
One of the difficult challenges in family life is family quarrels. Family quarrels are bitter, especially when they are between parents and children. They can be about any issue, and can spring up unexpectedly and catch us totally unprepared.
Whatever it is, family quarrels are bitter and painful. They are like splits in the skin that won’t heal easily because there’s not enough material to do so. But again, parents have this spiritual power to call upon God’s blessing so that there can be peace and unity in the family.
Family peace and harmony cannot be taken for granted, and as a matter of fact, family breakup is becoming more rampant. But again, parents have that spiritual power to keep the family together and sharing the same space.
So even after the Temple episode, Jesus went down with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth and lived under their authority. There He increased in wisdom, in stature and in favor with God and with others. As it was for Jesus, so may it be for parents and children in the family.
As Pope John Paul II said: As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live. Let us pray for the grace of caring for one another in our families, for each member of our parish family, and for all families of the universal Church. Amen.