Continuing to celebrate Christmas Fr. Paul Gallagher offers us these Gospel Reflections on the Scripture for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus. The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection December 26 2021. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Images: FreeBibleimages :: 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple :: 12-year-old Jesus asks questions and gives answers to astonished Teachers of the Law in the Temple in Jerusalem while His parents search for Him (Luke 2:41-52)
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.
For Luke, who is the author of this Gospel and of the Acts of the Apostles, Jerusalem is a very significant place. His gospel begins in Jerusalem, with Zechariah entering the Holy of Holies and learning of the future birth of John. Luke’s gospel also ends in Jerusalem, with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jerusalem is also the city where the disciples will receive the Holy Spirit and be sent out across the world.
In this gospel text Luke notes that Jesus is twelve years old. The Law of Moses requires that every male child at this age make the trip to Jerusalem for Passover. This then would be the first time Jesus would have been allowed to make the journey with the other adult members of his community, and read the Word of God in the temple. It marks his standing as an adult within the community, and a significant time of transition for him.
Traditionally twelve was the age when boys left the world of their mothers and the other women, and they entered the much harsher world of their fathers and the other adult males. The women of the extended family had been exclusively responsible for the raising of the children. Sons, because they were more valued, received special attention. When the boys left the protection of the women, the fathers and men of the community began to prepare them for the harsh realities of the world, where they would be responsible for the survival and protection of their family and community.
The caravans of pilgrims, like the rest of society, were segregated. Women and children traveled separately from the men. Because Jesus was just twelve, he might have traveled with either the men or the women. Therefore, Mary could have reasonably presumed that Jesus was traveling with Joseph, and Joseph could have assumed that he was traveling with Mary. Apparently, when the caravan stopped for the night, each learned that Jesus was not traveling with the other. Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem, perhaps without the benefit of traveling with a group.
Mary and Joseph found their son involved in a discussion with the religious teachers of the temple. Luke seems to portray Jesus as learned as one of the religious wise men of the day. But at the same time, he is an irresponsible member of his family and been the cause of great stress, and perhaps even imperiled their return to Jerusalem. His response to Mary and Joseph added to his poor behavior. The form of verb that is used in “don’t you know” is plural, indicating he is addressing both Mary and Joseph. While the text does not include Jesus’ recognition of his lack of responsibility, or an apology to Mary and Joseph, it does conclude by stating that Jesus returned with them and remained obedient to them, again plural. In the last verse of the text, Luke states that Jesus advanced in age, wisdom, and favor before God and men.
The gospel text itself several times treats both Mary and Joseph as the parents of Jesus. Throughout the text Luke refers to the parents of Jesus. When they find Jesus in the temple, Mary confronts Jesus, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I …” Jesus responds that he was in his Father’s house. But Luke here treats both Mary and Joseph as equally the parents of Jesus.
By including what might be looked upon as a humiliating story about Jesus’ shameful lack of consideration to his parents, Luke is making a theological statement about who Jesus’ true Father is. In responding to his parent’s concern about his absence from their caravan, he tells them he has been in his Father’s house. Jesus is not only living between the worlds of men and women of his day, but he is also living between the world of his father Joseph’s house and that of his Heavenly Father. Just as Jesus has not fully made the transition to being a responsible adult of his day, neither has he completely made the transition to God as his Father at this point in the gospel. Therefore, he returns to Nazareth, and in doing so he advances before God and men.
1. What do you remember about your transition from adolescence into the adult world?
2. Have you ever been with a parent or parents when they discover a missing child?
3. The gospel text states that Jesus stayed behind in the temple, discussing with the teachers while his parents and relatives gathered and began the journey for home. Imagine these events, and focus on Jesus without the usual familiar family and neighbors, engaged in conversation with the adult teachers of the temple, for perhaps two or three days. How do you imagine the unfolding of this situation?
4. When you hear Jesus respond to his parent’s concern for him, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house,” what feelings and thoughts are most present to you?
5. Can you take some time now to talk with God about the image of Jesus that Luke presents here, your own experience of becoming an adult, or your struggle now to live both in your real world and in the world of God?