FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY
Do one's best in this world, Be a model human person
First Reading (1 Sam 1: 20-22, 24-28): Hannah offered up Samuel
Second Reading (1 Jn 3: 1-2, 2l-24): We are God's children
Gospel (Lk 2: 41-52): First manifestation of Jesus' divinity
- “What can be held on to can also be let go; what can be calculated can be done; what can be seen through can be cast away”(1)
- -“Accept birth and death as natural coming and going, then sorrow and joy will not affect you.”(2)
“Jesus went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” (Lk 2: 51-52)
During his life on earth, did Jesus experience growth? If he did, what was this growth like? Wasn't he born with the awareness that he was God? Throughout his entire life, was he fully aware of his divinity all the time?
Many theologians believe that Jesus grew gradually to maturity, that he was not born with a full awareness of his mission or immediately reached the highest level of humanity.
Without a doubt Jesus is true God, but he also is truly human, a full, real human being. He was able to, and did, grow to maturity. He lived among us, walked the journey of life as every human person does. And because he fulfilled all the duties of a human person he was the most perfect human being that ever existed.
As Paul said, Jesus was like us in all things except sin. In other words, he personally experienced all that we experience. What differentiates him from us is that in all these experiences he did everything well and in accordance with the Father’s will.
Today is the Feast of the Holy Family and we hope that our family is a 'Holy Family': parents and children loving each other, siblings respectful of each other, all living in happiness and mutual harmony. We fervently pray to God to help our family be a Holy Family. We recall what Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given you.” (Mk 7: 7) We long for God to give us the grace for our family to become a Holy Family.
But we may forget the fact that even Jesus did not receive all he wished for. Everything Jesus had and received came from his perseverance and struggle.
During his prayer in Gethsemane, Jesus did not want to drink the bitter cup that his Father asked him to drink. Hanging on the cross, he cried out in agony, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 5: 34).
In fact, Jesus was learning throughout his entire life, “learning” to obey his Father's will. The highest point in his obedience to the Father came at the end of his life when on the cross he called out, “It is finished.”(Jn 19: 30)
He continued to learn throughout his life and he succeeded. He learned to be completely submissive to the Father's will and so could become mediator between heaven and earth.
As Jesus was growing to maturity, the 'Holy Family' did not become perfect in a day. Rather, the lengthy concerted efforts of all three, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, bore fruit and together they grew to perfection.
Today's Gospel passage relates the incident when Jesus at the age of twelve was found teaching in the temple. It gives us a glimpse of the hidden way in which the Holy Family grew in strength. It tells us about a misunderstanding that could happen in any family and it took place in the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
When Mary and Joseph discovered that they had lost Jesus, their anxiety and worry was indescribable. When they at last found Jesus, Mary openly expressed her worry, perhaps in a tone of blame and exasperation. Jesus in all sincerity explained the reason for his “being lost” for three days. But his earnestness did not seem to resolve the misunderstanding: “they did not understand what Jesus said.” The misunderstanding remained.
Life will not be entirely without misunderstandings, nor does it need to be: a family without any misunderstandings has not necessarily reached the highest stage of family life.
The Holy Family's way to handle this misunderstanding was to continue their life as before. The parents Mary and Joseph continued their parental responsibility to raise their son, the son Jesus continued his life of filial piety. Therefore Luke's Gospel records, “Jesus went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” There is another sentence which provides a further key to Mary's attitude: “His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”
Life does not have solutions to all problems, but we must learn how to face problems, especially how to face those we cannot solve. In those situations we can only 'keep everything in our heart', and with the greatest reverence quietly wait for God's loving care.
This is what Jin Ying of the Ching Dynasty meant in his “Maxims in Couplets of Jade: “What can be held on to can also be let go; what can be calculated can be done; what can be seen through, can be cast away.”(1)
Zhuang Zi, known to be a free spirit, went one step further to say one should strive to “accept birth and death as natural coming and going.”(2) This would bring one to the state “where sorrow and joy would not affect you.”(2) Then one would be able to submit completely to life as it is and accept everything in life as naturally as the seasons change, the flowers in the garden bloom and wither, and the clouds in the sky roll on and on.
In this respect Mary and the Holy Family have given us a remarkable example.