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Day 8: Sunday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time
Getting to know Joseph, Mary and Jesus as a real family
In week one of Nazareth we got to know Joseph and Mary: who they were as people; who they were as spouses; who they were as a married couple. Week two of Nazareth will draw us into their family. What was Nazareth like? What was the home like? What was their family like?
To learn about their family we would do well to learn more about Nazareth. Nazareth was a small village tucked in a valley between two mountain ranges. It was 93 miles north of Jerusalem and 30 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. It was a mere two days walk to the great metropolitan centre of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Nazareth was relatively poor and overpopulated; there was a scarcity of natural resources such as water and fertile soil. Nazareth was poor; it was simple; there were little distractions.
Nazareth was the perfect environment for Joseph and Mary to raise Jesus. It was a great place for a family. With little distractions they could be present to each other.
Today’s families face an immense challenge to be present to each other. I’ve talked to many parents to know the longing in their heart for more in their family life. For starters, never before has humanity lived at the pace we live. There is so much activity, so much to do. Often times parents feel like experts in time management as they juggle soccer practice, dance rehearsal, and arranged play dates. Furthermore, our culture is inundated with instantaneous stimulation. With iPhones, iPads, and iPods families can literally be in the same room, the same car, or the same event and not really talk to each other. Finally, it can be a challenge to really relate to each other. In the culture kids are growing up in many have lost the ability to talk to each other because we’ve grown accustomed to communicating through text, tweets, and Facebook. Our culture may have “advanced” but there is much to be debated as to whether our families have.
How present are you to your family or to your parish? How present is your family to you? How would you describe your depth of relationship with your family or parishioners? Do you feel busy, too busy? Do you feel that people really know you, know your heart? Do you feel that you really know the people you want to? Be honest, how has the culture, and all its technology, both positively and negatively impacted you, your relationships, and your family?
The Good News is this: God doesn’t need a laptop, a Kindle, or a Blackberry. God is always present to you. Even when you slow down and try to pray and find it difficult to be present to Him, God is always present to you.
Slow down, after all what are you really chasing? Today, turn off all of the gadgets and gizmos when you really don’t need them. Be present to people. Be present to God who’s present to you.
FOR YOUR PRAYER
Imagine how many times Joseph and Mary would have prayed together with Jesus. Imagine the way Nazareth would have mirrored the “pace” written of in Psalm 131. Read Psalm 131. Read it a few times. Pay attention to what word or phrases “tugs” at your heart. Pay attention to all of your thoughts, feelings, and desires as you slowly read the text.
Now, prayerfully imagine the “hidden scene” of Nazareth. Imagine an ordinary evening in the home of the Holy Family. No TV. No internet. No play station. Mary and Joseph would have been present to Jesus, enjoying the evening together. You are there, with them. Then, they turn to you. They ask you, “What’s on your heart today? How do you feel about your life, your pace, your family?” What do you want to tell them? Listen to what they say in reply.
Today’s Prayer: “Jesus, I desire know you in a deeply personal way. Help me to be present to you as you are present to me.”
Day 9: Monday of the 2nd Week of Ordinary Time
Did Jesus have brothers or sisters?
Recapping yesterday’s introduction, in week one of Nazareth we got to know Joseph and Mary: who they were as people; who they were as spouses; who they were as a married couple. Week two of Nazareth will draw us into their family. What was Nazareth like? What was the home like? What was their family like? Today’s Catholics are exposed to so much “information” it would be difficult resting in the truth of Nazareth unless we asked a very basic question: “Did Jesus have brothers or sisters?”
The answer is no. However, let’s at least ask ourselves: “Why do so many people believe Jesus did have brothers or sisters?” There are two important Scripture passages that are important for our discussion.
In Matthew 13:55-56 we read: “He came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, ‘Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?’”
Further, in Mark 3:31-35 we read: “His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, ‘Your mother and your brothers [and your sisters] are outside asking for you.’ But he said to them in reply, ‘Who are my mother and [my] brothers?’ And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers.[For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’”
The Church has forever professed that the Blessed Mother was a virgin at the moment of the Annunciation and remained one forever after. (14) Thus, Mary’s perpetual virginity clearly states that Jesus did not have brothers or sisters. The confusion lies in the use of the word “brothers” or “sisters” in the above Scripture passages. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament states: “The word ‘brethren’ (Greek adelphoi) has a broader meaning than blood brothers. Since ancient Hebrew had no word for ‘cousin’, it was customary to use ‘brethren’ in the Bible for relationships other than blood brothers. In the Greek Old Testament, a ‘brother’ can be a nearly related cousin (1st Chronicles 23:21-22), a more remote kinsman (Deuteronomy 23:7; 2nd Kings 10:13-14), an uncle or a nephew (Genesis 13:8), or the relation between men bound by covenant (2nd Samuel 1:26; see 1st Samuel 18:3). Continuing this Old Testament tradition, the New Testament often uses ‘brother’ or ‘brethren’ in this wider sense. Paul uses it as a synonym for his Israelite kinsmen in Romans 9:3. It also denotes biologically unrelated Christians in the New Covenant family of God (Romans 8:29; 12:1; Colossians 1:2; Hebrews 2:11; James 1:2; CCC, no. 500).” (15)
Essentially, the misunderstanding around Jesus’ “siblings” is as much of a misunderstanding of Mary’s perpetual virginity as it is anything else. Certainly, the above explanation clearly explains the use of the word “brethren”; however, the world struggles to embrace Mary as a perpetual virgin. Many misunderstand Mary and how she could be married to Joseph and remain a virgin after Jesus’ birth and the duration of her marriage to Joseph.
People misunderstood Mary, her heart, and her identity as a perpetual virgin. People misunderstood Jesus, for even he was rejected in his own town (Luke 4:28-29) and mocked by his own cousins (Mark 3:21). People may misunderstand you. Because of your desire for God, you may be misunderstood … in your marriage … in your home … in your family … at work … with your friends … around town.
Remember, life has less to do with what we’re facing and more to do with where we’re looking. In the tough times, when you are misunderstood, look at God. I promise you: God is with you; Mary is with you; Joseph is with you. They are with you always, especially when you are misunderstood.
FOR YOUR PRAYER
Imagine how often Joseph and Mary would have prayed when they were misunderstood. When Mary first conceived she was misunderstood. When Joseph decided to proceed with their marriage he was misunderstood. When Jesus was rejected in the synagogue in Nazareth he was misunderstood. Read John 15:16, then read John 15:1-15. Read it a few times. Pay attention to what word or phrases “tugs” at your heart. Pay attention to all of your thoughts, feelings, and desires as you slowly read the text.
Now, prayerfully imagine the “hidden scene” of Nazareth. Imagine Mary going to the water well in Nazareth. It is merely weeks after Jesus’ birth. The small-minded gossipers of Nazareth are still whispering about Mary and Joseph and the misunderstood “circumstances” of her pregnancy. You are there, with her. She turns to you. She asks you, “What’s on your heart today? When do you feel misunderstood?” What do you want to tell her? Listen to what she says in reply.
Today’s Prayer: “Jesus, I desire to know you in a deeply personal way. Help me to be present to you as you are present to me.”
(14) Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 499-501
(15) Scott Hahn, Curtis Mitch, and Dennis Walters, The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament. Further notes from the footnote for Matthew 12:46 read: “The New Testament often mentions Jesus’ brethren (13:55; Mark 3:31; 6:3; Luke 8:19; John 2:12; 7:3; Acts 1:14;Galatians 1:19). The Church maintains, however, that Jesus’ Mother, Mary, remained a virgin throughout her life. These so-called brethren of Jesus are thus his relatives but not children of Mary. Four observations support the Church’s tradition: (1) These brethren are never called the children of Mary, although Jesus himself is (John 2:1; 19:25; Acts 1:14). (2) Two names mentioned, James and Joseph, are sons of a different ‘Mary’ in Matthew 27:56 (Mark 15:40). (3) It is unlikely that Jesus would entrust his Mother to the Apostle John at his Crucifixion if she had other natural sons to care for her (John 19:26-27).”
Day 10: Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Ordinary Time
What was Jesus’ childhood like?
Continuing the second week of Nazareth, and learning more about the Holy Family, today we ask “What was Jesus’ childhood like?”
Simplifying complex psychological development, children mature through a three-fold progression that can be summarized as security, maturity, and purity. (16) First, boys need a stable foundation of security. If their physical needs are stable, and nurturing love and acceptance from both parents is provided, children are able to rest in their innate need for security. If boys have security they are then able to progress through the stages of maturity. They eventually lay aside “childish things” (1st Corinthians 13:11) and learn what it means to be a son … then a brother … and then a man. If they mature in natural developmental ways, boys become men. Their maturity bears fruit in purity. Thus, we can presume that the early years of Jesus’ life were filled with security that fostered maturity.
An essential piece of Jesus’ childhood security was the presence of Joseph’s fathering. Pope John Paul II writes: “In this family, Joseph is the father: his fatherhood is not one that derives from begetting offspring; but neither is it an ‘apparent’ or merely ‘substitute’ fatherhood. Rather, it is one that fully shares in authentic human fatherhood and the mission of a father in the family.” (17) God the Father chose Joseph to be the father of the Holy Family. God the Father chose Joseph to be the image of a father for Jesus. God the Father chose Joseph to father Jesus.
Joseph would have embraced his role in the Holy Family: he was the father of the house. Our purest Christian imagination can enter into the “hidden scenes” of Joseph fathering Jesus. When Jesus was growing as a child it would have been Joseph who would have taught Jesus the Psalms and the basics of prayer. Joseph would have brought Jesus to the synagogue for further religious instruction. Joseph would have introduced Jesus to his trade as a carpenter. Joseph would have spent countless hours alone with Jesus laughing, playing, and praying. Joseph would have spent countless hours alone with Jesus sweating in the carpenter’s trade, teaching Jesus the ethic of work. Jesus would have learned about the “seasons” of life and rhythm of nature from Joseph. He would have learned about the basics of being a boy and a man. In all those hours together, in all those lessons shared, Jesus was fathered by Joseph.
A father has a God-given role in a person’s life. His role is intentional and critical. A father’s role is slightly different in the early life of a boy as it is in the early life of a girl. Therefore, the greatest gift that Joseph gave Jesus was time. He fathered Jesus through relationship, and relationships require time.
The Catechism states: “The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents,who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible” and can often fall short in their “fatherhood and motherhood.” (18) Perhaps your father did a great job in his role as “a representative of God” for you. Perhaps he fell short. Regardless of how well your dad did or did not do, God the Father desires to fill in the gaps. 2nd Corinthians 6:18 states: “I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
Spend some time today with St. Joseph and ask him to show you how he fathered Jesus. Perhaps you’re called to thank your dad. Perhaps you’re called to forgive your dad. Perhaps you’re called to deepen your relationship with God as Father, letting Him do for you now what your dad never did. Perhaps you’re called to evaluate how you now father as a pastor or dad, with Joseph as your model. Be open. Be present. Be with Joseph, for he fathered Jesus.
FOR YOUR PRAYER
The “father’s blessing” was a rich tradition among Jewish fathers. Rooted in the tradition of Genesis 49:25-28, Joseph would have prayed over Jesus countless times. Read Psalm 103. Consider Joseph teaching Jesus Psalm 103 as he blessed Jesus with those words. Read it a few times. Pay attention to what word or phrases “tugs” at your heart. Pay attention to all of your thoughts, feelings, and desires as you slowly read the text.
Now, prayerfully imagine the “hidden scenes” of Nazareth: Joseph teaching Jesus how to pray; Joseph teaching Jesus the basic trade of carpentry; Joseph gazing at the stars with Jesus, teaching him how to read the sky; Joseph laughing with Jesus; Joseph spending time with Jesus. Pick a scene and let it unfold in your imagination. You are there, with them. They turn to you. They ask you, “What’s on your heart today?” What do you want to tell them? Listen to what they say in reply.
Today’s Prayer: “Jesus, I desire to know you in a deeply personal way. Help me to grow in my relationship with you and with the Father.”
(16) Bob Schuchts, Ph.D., Security, Maturity, and Purity: Foundations for Chaste Celibacy
(17) John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, no. 21
(18) Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 239
Day 11: Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Ordinary Time
“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
In learning more about Jesus’ childhood, yesterday we asked, “What was Joseph’s role as a father?” Today we peer into Mary’s heart during those every years of Nazareth.
Perhaps no better words describe the contemplative heart of the Blessed Mother than Luke 2:19. On the heels of her giving birth, the shepherds came to visit, glorifying God and delivering the message given to them by the Angel. As Mary and Joseph receive their unexpected adorers, Luke’s scene of the nativity concludes with, “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.“
Mary had much to “reflect upon” during the early years of Jesus in Nazareth. As the infant grew into his childhood, certainly Mary recalled the extraordinary events surrounding his birth: the provision of the Father when they were rejected in Bethlehem; holding the newborn Jesus in her arms mere moments after his birth; the shepherds; the Magi; Simeon and Anna; and, of course, the shocking exodus from Bethlehem as they fled to Egypt.
We are invited to ponder Mary pondering other things in her heart. Late in the evening, under the blanket of night, we can ponder Mary simply looking at Jesus as he slept in peace. There, in the silence, as she beheld her son, she recalled, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33). “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.” (Luke 2:34) “And you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:35)
When did she tell him? When did she first share the stories of his birth? When did she tell him about the shepherds, the Magi, and Simeon? When did she tell him about the flight into Egypt? When did she tell him about the words of the Angel Gabriel to both her and Joseph? We don’t know when she shared her heart. However, we do know that Mary had a contemplative depth such that she “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
Many mothers know what it’s like to ”keep things, reflecting on them in their heart.” Mothers see things; they hear things; they intuit things. Many moms know the experience of holding things in the silence of their hearts: the joy of watching their children grow; the pain of watching their families struggle; the unknown of what the future will bring. Further still, many wives keep much within “reflecting on them in their heart.” Many wives silently ponder the good and bad of their marriage. They may ponder whether their dreams in life have turned out how they expected. They may hold within the “little things” from their relationships with their husbands: the hidden things they appreciate or the little things that hurt so much.
Mary has much to teach us all, for Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” with God. Mary didn’t ponder feeling alone or as if she had to figure it out. Mary pondered with God. She related her heart to the Father. She prayed the Psalms and found solace in the story of her ancestors. She opened her heart to God and spoke with Him. If you have things in your heart that are hidden, Mary wants to be with you. Whether it’s where you are in life … or your marriage … or your kids … or your family … Mary wants to be with you. God wants to listen; He wants to receive; He wants to walk the journey with you.
What’s in your heart? What have you been pondering alone? What do you need to share with God?
FOR YOUR PRAYER
The Psalms would have offered great solace to Mary as she ”kept all these things, reflecting on them in their heart.” Read Psalm 139:1-16. Read it a few times. Pay attention to what word or phrases “tugs” at your heart. Pay attention to all of your thoughts, feelings, and desires as you slowly read the text.
Now, prayerfully imagine the “hidden scenes” of Nazareth: late in the evening, under the blanket of night, Mary moves beside Jesus’ bed. She looks at Jesus as he sleeps in peace. There in the silence, as she beholds her son, she recalls all that was said to her. And you are there, with her. You look at her. You look at Jesus sleeping. You look again to Mary. She turns to you. She asks you, “What’s on your heart today?” What do you want to tell her? Listen to what she says in reply.
Today’s Prayer: “Jesus, I desire to know you in a deeply personal way. Help me to grow in my relationship with you by growing in relationship with your Mother.”
Day 12: Thursday of the 2nd Week of Ordinary Time
Joseph and Mary take Jesus on his first pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover
We have prayed this week with Jesus’ childhood, a season in his life of which we know little about. However, the single story that the Scriptures do speak of is his being twelve years old and being lost in the Temple. Over the next few days we will slowly digest this important event.
“The Torah laid down that every Israelite was to make an appearance in the Temple for the three great feasts: Passover, Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) and Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Exodus 23: 17; 34: 23f.; Deuteronomy 16: 16f.). The question whether women were also obliged to make this pilgrimage was a matter of debate between the schools of Shammai and Hillel. As for boys, the obligation applied to them once they had completed their thirteenth year. But it is also laid down that they were to accustom themselves gradually to the commandments. One way of doing this was to make the pilgrimage at the age of twelve.” (19) Thus, Luke tells us “Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom.” (Luke 2:41-42)
The Holy Father continues: “The fact that Mary and Jesus also took part in the pilgrimage once again demonstrates the piety of Jesus’ family. We should also note the deeper meaning of the pilgrimage: by going up to the Temple three times a year, Israel remains, as it were, God’s pilgrim people, always journeying toward its God and receiving its identity and unity increasingly from the encounter with God in the one Temple. The holy family takes its place within this great pilgrim community on its way to the Temple and to God.”
Israel would go on pilgrimage to be reminded of their identity. The journey reminded them of who they were. The feasts reminded them of who they were. The Temple reminded them of who they were. The heartbeat of Israel was the Temple in Jerusalem; however, a far majority of the Chosen People lived far away from the Temple. Therefore, so that they would not become isolated and thus forget who they were, the Torah instructed all Jews to rhythmically return to Jerusalem.
Nazareth was 93 miles north of Jerusalem, almost a week’s walk away. Far away from the heartbeat of Israel, it would have been easy to feel isolated in Nazareth. That’s why both Joseph and Mary went on pilgrimage. That’s why they wanted to take Jesus. Joseph and Mary knew that when we are isolated from God we forget our true identity.
It’s easy to lose your way. It’s easy to “get caught up with life” that we soon feel as if God is far away. Life is busy. Our world frenzies at an unnatural pace such that we too can get caught up with living fast and grasping. When we live “fast” it’s easy to forget about the important things. It is easy to lose touch with God. Soon, we feel isolated and alone. It is then that we too forget who we are. That’s when we forget our true identity and soon look for other things to define who we are.
Mary and Joseph never forgot their true identity. They raised Jesus to be the same. Be on the look out for feeling isolated from God. And, when you do feel isolated, expect that you’ll begin to grasp at other things to define who you are.
Your true identity comes from God and God alone. Regardless of your labels and categories, you are not your labels and categories. You are only God’s. You are not tall or short, fat or skinny, pretty or ugly: you are God’s. You are not successful or a failure. You are not rich or poor. You are not good or bad. You are God’s. God alone defines you. God alone gives you your identity.
Be not afraid, especially if and when you feel isolated. God is with you and He desires to remind you of who you are.
FOR YOUR PRAYER
Joseph, Mary, and Jesus would recited their favorite passages form the Old Testament as they walked 93 miles over seven days. Read Isaiah 43:1-7. Read it a few times. Pay attention to what words or phrases “tug” at your heart. Pay attention to all of your thoughts, feelings, and desires as you slowly read the text. What is God saying to you as He sees you through His eyes.
Now, prayerfully imagine the scene in Luke 2:41-42. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are walking to Jerusalem. As they walk they pray. Be there. Notice their love for God. Notice their love for each other. Now, they turn to you. They ask you: “What’s on your heart today?” What do you want to tell them? Listen to what they say in reply.
Today’s Prayer: “Jesus, I desire to know you in a deeply personal way. Help me to grow in my relationship with you by growing allowing you and you alone to determine my identity.”
(19) Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pg. 121
(20) Ibid., pg. 122
Day 13: Friday of the 2nd Week of Ordinary Time
Mary and Joseph were filled with anxiety as they looked for Jesus
The story of Jesus’ first pilgrimage to the Temple shifts today as we continue reading from Luke. “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.” (Luke 2:44-45) Imagine losing your child: Jesus is missing … he is lost … he is gone. God entrusted you with the greatest gift of all time, the Messiah himself, and he is missing … lost … gone. Imagine the emotions: fear, worry, anxiety. After walking north for a full day and retracing their steps back to Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph “found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions … 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.’” (Luke 2:46-49)
Pope Benedict XVI invites us all to receive the imagery of the narrative. (21) On his very first Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Jesus is lost for three days; however, when he’s found we see the beauty of Jesus’ adherence to the Father’s will. On his very last Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Jesus is lost for three days; however, when he’s found we see the beauty of Jesus’ adherence to the Father’s will. The “three days” refer not only to Jesus as a 12 year-old but also to his death, burial, and resurrection.
Both Passover pilgrimages were difficulty for Mary. When Jesus is lost in the Temple she exclaims that she was filled with anxiety, great anxiety. Twenty-one years later, during his final Passover pilgrimage, Jesus will be betrayed, beaten, and crucified. Certainly those days were excruciating for Mary. She witnessed both of these “three days” first hand. As Mary frantically looked for her missing son, filled with great anxiety, one can only imagine if Simeon’s words echoed in her heart: “and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:35)
Do you experience anxiety? If so, when? If so, why? And, if so, what do you do with the anxiety? Far too often I painted an image in my imagination of what Mary and St. Joseph were like. Far too often the image I had was one that was anything but really human. I imagined their lives to be more like the fantasy of Hollywood instead of the reality of Nazareth. However, the more time I spent with them, the more real their lives became.
Nowhere else do I need to know I am not alone than when I experience anxiety. And … nowhere else do you need to know you are not alone than when you experience anxiety. The secret is to not isolate yourself when you experience anxiety. Many of us “turn in” when we’re afraid. However, as Mary and Joseph are with you, the secret is to “turn toward” them. They know about your heart and they know about anxiety first hand. Spend some time with the Holy Family and ask them to show you how they handled anxiety. Ask them how they want you to handle anxiety.
FOR YOUR PRAYER
As Mary and Joseph looked for Jesus they no doubt prayed as they felt great anxiety. Familiar with the Psalms, one can imagine them praying Psalm 4. Read Psalm 4. Read it a few times. Pay attention to what words or phrases “tug” at your heart. Pay attention to all of your thoughts, feelings, and desires as you slowly read the text.
Now, prayerfully imagine the scene in Luke 2:44-45 . Jesus is missing … he is lost … he is gone. What went through Mary’s heart when she first realized he was not with them? As a father picked to protect Jesus, what went through Joseph’s heart as he searched? Be there. Be with them. See their anxiety. Feel their anxiety. As you are with them, they turn to you. They ask you: ”What are you most anxious about? What’s on your heart today?” What do you want to tell them? Listen to what they say in reply.
Today’s Prayer: “Jesus, I desire to know you in a deeply personal way. Help me to grow in my relationship with you by allowing you to enter my anxiety.”
(21) Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pgs. 123
Day 14: Saturday of the 2nd Week of Ordinary Time
What does the finding in the Temple tell us about Jesus as a child?
Today we find Jesus as his parent find him teaching. Thus we ask, “What does the finding in the Temple tell us about Jesus as a child?”
Pope Benedict XVI writes: “In some portrayals of the figure of Jesus, the emphasis is placed almost exclusively on the radical aspects, on Jesus’ challenge to false piety. Thus Jesus is presented as a liberal or a revolutionary. It is true that in his mission as Son, Jesus did introduce a new phase in man’s relationship to God, opening up a new dimension of human intimacy with God. But this was not an attack on Israel’s piety. Jesus’ freedom is not the freedom of the liberal. It is the freedom of the Son, and thus the freedom of the truly devout person. As Son, Jesus brings a new freedom: not the freedom of someone with no obligations, but the freedom of someone totally united with the Father’s will,someone who helps mankind to attain the freedom of inner oneness with God. Jesus came not to abolish, but to complete (cf. Mt 5: 17). This link between radical newness and equally radical faithfulness, rooted in Jesus’ sonship, emerges clearly in the short narrative about the twelve-year-old: indeed, I would say it is the actual theological content that this story is intended to convey.” (22)
Through the narrative of the finding in the Temple, we learn this about Jesus and his childhood: even as a child Jesus was free. Jesus was raised in a home where the Father was the important person in their home. Mary and Joseph sought the Father’s will and they created a home where Jesus was free to be who he was as the Son of God. Jesus’ longing for the Father’s will was mirrored by his parents longing for the Father’s will. Thus, Joseph and Mary raised Jesus to know that real freedom is living in the Father.
It’s important for us to peer into our attitude toward freedom. Many of us grew up defining freedom as an option rather than a disposition. For example, I can be “free” to choose whatever I want. The exterior options are numerous and there are no restrictions externally that would prevent me from choosing option A or option B. Or, more importantly, I can be “free” to choose the very thing I want. The exterior options are still as numerous; however, there no restrictions interiorly that would prevent me from choosing the very thing I long for. Many of us define “freedom” as an external reality, we define it by options. In reality, real freedom is an interior disposition where I can be who I really am, I can be who God made me to be.
In the end, how I define freedom is dependent upon how I define happiness. If I think happiness comes from “things” then I want to be “free” to choose whatever “thing” I think is going to make me happy. However, if I think happiness comes from God, then I want to be “free” of anything that would prevent me from God.
It’s important to ask yourself about freedom. How do you define it? What’s your attitude towards it? In addition, it’s important to ask yourself about happiness. How do you define it? Where do you seek it? Where does it come from?
Do you want to be free ”to” or free ”from”? Spend some time with the Holy Family and talk to them about freedom, real freedom.
FOR YOUR PRAYER
Joseph and Mary would have allowed Jesus’ single-hearted love for the Father to naturally mature in his heart. And the Psalms would have been central in the prayer life of the Holy Family. Psalms 63 and 37 both speak of a single-hearted love for God. First read Psalm 63 and then Psalm 37:1-7. Read them a few times. Pay attention to what words or phrases “tug” at your heart. Pay attention to all of your thoughts, feelings, and desires as you slowly read the text.
Now, prayerfully imagine the scene in Luke 2:46. The child Jesus is teaching in the Temple. Be with him. Look at him. Be there. Notice his freedom. Now, he turns to you. Jesus asks you: ”Are you free? What’s on your heart today?” What do you want to tell him? Listen to what he says in reply.
Today’s Prayer: “Jesus, I desire to know you in a deeply personal way. Help me to grow in my relationship with you by growing in the freedom to want you more than I want anything else.”
(22) Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pgs. 120-121