Homily  Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary &Joseph (YC) Fr. Michael UdoekpoReadings: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14; or 1 Sam 1:20-22, 24-28; Psalm 128:1-5; Col 3:12-21 or 3:12-17or 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Luke 2:41-52
Embracing the Holy Family of Nazareth in this Year of Mercy
“He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient onto them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and Man” (Luke 2:51-52).
This passage from Luke’s Gospel captures the meaning of what we celebrate today: the beauty, the hard work, the wisdom, the fear of the Lord, the spirit of endurance, the simplicity, the sense of responsibility-accountability, the obedience, the love, the compassion, the commitment, the faith, the fiat, the sense of total surrendering to the will God, the exemplary acts of mercy of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph; their overall virtues and their meaning for us- modern families today, especially in this Year of Mercy! Pope Francis calls this Jubilee Year of Mercy “a special time for the Church when the witness of believers might grow stronger and stronger” (Misericordiae Vultus 3).
In the Christmas stories of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Mary is completely docile, obedient and opened to the will of God announced to her by the Angel Gabriel ( Luke 1:38). All that she says, is, Yes, Lord, “Be it done to me according to your word.” Her husband, Joseph, is “righteous,” and “just.” Even though Joseph had initial doubts concerning the mysteries of the pregnancy of Mary, he is opened to the whispering of the angel and of the Holy Spirit.
Remember, in the time of the Holy family, the title of being “righteous” saddiq or “just” was not easy to come by. You have to be very hard working, caring, be honest, be approachable, be fair, and be ready to listen to one another, be merciful as Joseph did. The merciful and the listening Jospeh! He took Mary Home (Matthew 1:24). At birth, Joseph and Mary, both protected the baby Jesus against so many things: hunger, unfriendly weather, and against the hostilities of the reigning kings.
As narrated, particularly in today’s Gospel, Jesus was only 12 years old when Joseph and Mary, brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for the customary feast of the Passover, where the community offers their gratitude and services to the Lord- a type we saw in many places in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, especially in the story of Elkanah, Hannah and little boy Samuel, in 1 Samuel chapter 1.
In the case of Jesus, he stayed back in the temple after prayers. Realizing this at home, Mary and Joseph, were disturbed. They were concerned for their child. Like any other caring and merciful parents Mary and Joseph anxiously went back looking for Jesus. It took them another 3 days to recover Jesus sitting in the temple- in his Father’s House, listening and asking questions related to scriptures and faith. Seeing him, Mary did not freak-out- much. She did not call Jesus names such as “you this terrible boy” you this “stubborn child” as some modern parents would do! Rather, Mary simply and motherly said to Jesus, “Son why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you.”
And what was Jesus response? – He said, to Mary, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house”? Even though Mary and Joseph did not understand fully, at this point, this divine aspect of Jesus, - scripture say, Mary kept all these mysteries in her heart. Of course, reechoing the parallel stories of obedience to parents, and gratitude to the Lord in Sirach and I Samuel, Luke says, Jesus went home to Nazareth with the parents and was submissive to them in obedience- and gaining wisdom and favor from the Lord!
Amazing faith stories! How would a modern family of Daddy, Mum and children read or live these faith stories today—a different time and age? These stories I believe must be challenging to those parents who walk away from their family responsibilities today. It must be challenging to those parents who leave their children recklessly in the hands of a third party for personal and selfish freedom or under the pretext of been too “busy at work.”
Think of what Mary and Joseph went through as husband and wife. Mary and Joseph would have been divorced but not for their spirit of prayers, patience, enduring and listening grace to the voice of the Holy Spirit. What are the causes of high rate of divorce in our society today? It must be very painful for those who experience this. The story of Mary and Joseph must be challenging to all of us.
Also the conversation that Jesus had with Mary when the found him in the temple and his response to accompany them home where he lived in obedience must be challenging as well to our modern society that struggles to draw the line between the rights of parents and those of the children. It must be challenging as well to those children who talk-back at their parents or disobey them, especially in matters of faith and morality!
How we return home from work on time, share at family meals, visit our aging and sick parents wherever they are, love, respect, care, listen, forgive and pray for one another in our families and communities, especially in this Year of Mercy need a re-modelling after the life styles of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Remember, the human Jesus would have learned a lot from his parents, his obedience, his love, his kindness, and mercy!
Finally, let us pray with Rita Simmonds, for our families (Luke 2:41-52).
In Obedience, away from the Caravan, to your House
Have mercy on our families.
Like Mary and Joseph, whose twelve-year-old son went missing,
We are often anxious and upset
And we cannot comprehend your will.
Let the family be the place where your only begotten Son is free to dwell
Have mercy on us all:
Bring salvation to our steps, and let us open our door and embrace, the strange and holy family of Nazareth!”
And as we approach the table of the Holy Eucharist today, let us pray that each and every one of us may return home today, nourished by the virtues, mercy, and exemplary lives of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.