Homily – Holy Family – 12/30/18 by Fr. Seamus

HOLY FAMILY – (C)  –   DEC. 30, 2018   +   RDNGS: 1 Sm 1:20-28; 1 Jn 3:1-24; Lk 2:41-52

(Optional Intro: The biblical idea of family boundaries could be quite porous. Blood relationships were important, but the second sense of being a family came from acts of love and loyalty. Blood brothers like Jacob and Esau could split permanently over acts of betrayal, while unrelated persons like Ruth and Naomi (Ru 1:16-18) of David and Jonathan (1 Sm 18:1-4; 20:14-17) could establish covenant relationships with each other that were even stronger than their ties to blood relatives.)

[AD LIB: It’s all about family – Mention Gethsemani’s Family Guest House: e.g. Br Raphael’s large extended family coming from MO every year .. by bus! … and Br Christian’s also …  from NH, with his niece’s friend with them – a teenage girl … “No, I’m not family – I never met Br Christian before” she told me … whose own family, she said,  “never does anything together” … ” ]

Finding one’s place in God’s household is the reality to which today’s first reading and Gospel speak. Samuel’s parents were not members of Israel’s priestly tribe, but because of Hannah’s love and loyalty, Samuel was welcome in God’s house. It took some time, however, for Samuel to find his place as the leader of Israel. 

Jesus also needed time ‘to find his place’ in God’s house. He was God’s Son and, at age 12 he felt at home in the temple where he spent his time listening and asking questions. It is likely that the astonishment that his teachers showed came less from his display of supernatural knowledge and more from his intelligent, perceptive questions. (Home schooled? 😊 )

He had not yet discovered his role. Luke reminds his readers that Jesus still needed time to “advance in wisdom” before he found the place God intended for him. This is a great lesson for all of us who are searching for her/his place in God’s divine plan … for spiritual discernment … on what to do next on our journey of faith.

Jesus’ response to his distraught parents, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” are His first recorded words in scripture … and it’s a question … as was Mary’s first recorded words in scripture … also a question … to the Angel Gabriel, “How can this be since I know not man?”) Why is Luke connecting these? Perhaps this is the summit towards which today’s gospel moves? It has a profound meaning: Mary and Joseph’s complete incomprehension clearly point to this. Jesus, a child like others, obeying his parents, yet clearly possessing an incomparable wisdom, has a mysterious relationship with the Father. The mystery of his person is only revealed, little by little, through his obedience to the will of God. (And we say goodbye to Joseph … who has never been quoted … This Temple scene is/was his final appearance in scripture, he is never mentioned again … but Luke tells us he went home with Mary and Jesus … and we applaud all those parents who have also sacrificed their lives solely for the good of their children!)

Going back: We notice that Luke has Jesus travelling with his parents to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. We see here a spiritually-rich literary coherence: The next time Luke portrays Jesus on his way to Jerusalem will be for the Feast of Passover … again … and that will be Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem … the Jewish feast will coincide with his own “Personal Passover” … his death and resurrection … for each of us … love personified.

Going back again: The veil will not be completely lifted, however, until Easter, which is already on the horizon. We can’t help but notice that Jesus is found in the Temple – or we could say “reappears” – on the third day after his absence, as it will be three days between his death and resurrection. Also, the incomprehension of Joseph and Mary evokes that of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:25) whom the resurrected Jesus reproaches by saying to them, “What little sense you have!” … or as some translations put it, “Oh how foolish you are! Did not the Messiah have to undergo all this?” … or “Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” These words clearly reflect Jesus’ words to his parents in the Temple: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Can’t help but realize how direct Jesus is … as he sometimes is with us (through others) as we look for Jesus in our lives.

Seems to me that at some point, each of us needs to follow a similar path. We know we are always welcome in God’s house, but eventually we need to discern the specific role we will play in the divine family. Isn’t this what Lectio is? Only by imitating Jesus’ extended listening and questioning will we be able to mature in the wisdom necessary to discern who we really are and where we’re going … to follow Christ. This process of discernment and our decisions may well mystify our family and/or those who know us best, but when we find the place God has made for us, we will know … and we will feel right at home. One thing is certrain: Each of us has a unique role to play in the divine family … It’s the on-going drama of the divine plan. I hope and pray we all believe this. Have we discerned what our role is? We may never fully know until we carry our cross – suffer – and hang there – naked in others’ eyes – and die to ourselves for the sake of all in God’s family … “to suffer these things and enter into his/our glory.” 

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