In our hearts, we are family
What do we mean when we express this sentiment? I suppose more than anything it says that we belong to something, an entity, a community and that part of ourselves, part of our own individuality or uniqueness is bound up with something bigger. We are now so knowledgable about our genetic make up that we can trace our ancestry back to prehistoric times and so discover common traits with humans from the other side of the planet. Above all it tells us that our human family is an amazing mix which embodies inherent characteristics which go much deeper than the superficial ones which seem to disturb us so deeply.
If this feast of the Holy Family was celebrated at a different time of year would we be thinking of a young mother and father with their new born baby or would we have another image in our minds? Perhaps we need to broaden out the horizon of this feast and allow its transcendent qualities to permeate more than just the Christmas card image it inadvertently displays. In a way the gospel of today seeks to do just that. To begin with all trace of “Christmas” is gone and to properly understand the story we have to have in our minds the adult Jesus, the Jesus of the ministry and to discern from what Luke describes, the theology of what is taking place. Luke takes us to the very heart of the Jewish faith, to the Temple, the place where the Holy of Holies dwelt. Every Jewish family felt an affiliation to the Temple, such that the heart of the family drew its personality from the heart of the Temple through the indwelling of God. The fact that the family go at Passover time should not be overlooked.
On their way home i.e. on their way back to their “normality”, they discover that Jesus is not with them or their kin. They go to look for him and end up returning to Jerusalem where after three days they find him in the Temple, the dwelling place of God, the heart of their faith and by affiliation of the family. The family question him as to why he has done this and the answer they receive is the pre-echo of what they will be told years later
when once again Luke narrates how Jesus’ mother and his family come looking for him and are told that his mother and brothers are those who listen to the word of God and put it into practice.
Luke is telling us something very profound, something which takes time for us to assimilate and comprehend – Jesus, the fulness of God’s revelation, is the very heart beat of our understanding of God and he reveals this to us in our families. It is not just the ties or bonds of blood which make us family, but the ties and bonds of faith which find their expression in the acts of loving and serving which express our witness.
To learn this lesson is to treasure the gift of family and we should store up these things and ponder on them in our hearts just as Mary did. It matters that we do this because among and in our families is where the heart of our faith dwells. The gospel will spell this out ultimately at another Passover after a Temple visit. Three days later, members of the family come to tomb and can’t find him. Two others on the road returning to their “normality” feel their hearts burning within them and come back to Jerusalem and discover that nothing is normal any longer.
May our families be blessed on this holy day.