My husband and I had just spent three days with our granddaughters. Their parents had the opportunity to see the Blackhawks play in Nashville. Of course, Grandpa and I happily agreed to make this much-deserved get-away possible. While Mommy and Daddy enjoyed their mini-vacation, Grandpa and I enjoyed (and were admittedly worn out by) full immersion into our granddaughters’ lives. The girls assisted by behaving and providing some enlightening and amusing insight into their daily joys, trials and tribulations. All the while, I couldn’t help recalling life with our own sons. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we listened as Mike and Tim expounded on sports, their friends and their latest annoyance at school? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I worried so…
After reading today’s gospel, I felt completely justified in one bout with worry which I’ll never forget. Twelve-year-old Mike had set out after dinner for a friend’s house down the block where they’d spend the evening exploring a new video game. A few hours later when he failed to return home on time, I called my neighbor to ask her to send Mike home. She responded that she didn’t know Mike was there. When she asked her husband if Mike had come by, he responded in the negative. This was completely out of character as Mike was always good about sharing his whereabouts and checking in with us. After calling the parents of a few of his other friends with no results, I was frantic. Things can happen to kids in a split second and I knew that my son was not immune. With that, my husband decided to look for him while I stayed home with our younger son. Though Tim was only four years old, he sensed trouble easily and reacted with inconsolable fear for his big brother. Before my husband left, I called our neighbor again to ask that she let us know if Mike appeared there. After commiserating with me, she hung up the phone and went to check on her own sons who had been playing in the basement. Just as she opened the door, our Mike was running up the stairs. He confessed that he’d lost track of the time and was planning to run all the way home. By the time my neighbor called to apologize for inadvertently contributing to our worst fears, my out-of-breath son walked through the front door to a most unexpected hug!
Luke’s gospel (2:41-52) details a similar occurrence with Jesus and his parents. Together, they had walked from their small town to Jerusalem in the company of numerous neighbors and friends. After celebrating Passover in the temple, Mary and Joseph allowed Jesus to mingle freely amidst the caravan returning home. After all, Jesus was almost a teenager at the time. Only as night fell did Mary and Joseph realize that Jesus wasn’t among them. Because they had taught Jesus common sense and consideration for others, the frantic couple feared the worst. Left to travel alone, they hurried back to Jerusalem to search for their son. When Mary and Joseph finally found him in the temple, Jesus seemed bothered by his parents’ worry. He asked, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” I know many of us could have advised Mary and Joseph regarding their response! Still, these two who had taught Jesus compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness, chose to practice what they preached. Though they failed to understand Jesus’ actions, they simply took their son home. As for Jesus, he returned to Nazareth “…and was obedient to them.” As for my elder son, I’m quite certain that he is making note of the fact that there was one occasion when he pleased his parents a bit more successfully than Jesus did!
Today’s feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph gives us all reason to celebrate our humanity. Being human is so important to our Wise Creator that God sent Jesus, not to “act” as one of us, but to truly “be” one of us. This explains Jesus’ impatience with Mary and Joseph at the temple. Twelve-year-old that he was, Jesus simply couldn’t understand why his parents would worry about him. Twelve-year old that he was, Jesus simply went about doing what he knew he must. This also explains Jesus’ persistence in revealing God’s love for us. Just as Jesus’ parents searched until they found him, God asks us to keep track of one another. Whether we are twelve months, twelve years, twenty, thirty-five, sixty-four or eighty-seven, God asks only that we care for those we have been given to love as only we humans can.
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