Seek the Lord

The Sixth Day of Christmas!

So much of Jesus’ childhood and young adult life are unknown to us, but the Gospel of Luke (2:41-52) gives us a glimpse into the life of the Holy Family, as he describes the events surrounding the family’s pilgrimage journey to Jerusalem. They went there to celebrate the Feast of Passover when Jesus was twelve years old. As is customary, when Joseph and Mary left Jerusalem to return back to their home, they traveled in separate parts of the caravan; men traveled together and the women traveled together in a separate part of the group. Because of Jesus’ age (12), he could have been with either the men or women, so it is reasonable that Joseph and Mary would think that Jesus was with the other. However, after a day of traveling and then realizing that he was not with either of them or any of their relatives, they experienced what parents dread, the great anxiety and fear of not knowing where their child is.

Joseph and Mary return to Jerusalem, and after three days of searching, they finally found Jesus in the Temple asking questions of and dialoging with the priests and teachers, and “all who heard him were astounded!” (NAB, LK 2:47) In response to being asked for an explanation from his parents, Jesus responds, “’Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’” (2:49)

There are many things to learn from the Holy Family. One lesson is precisely this, that when we experience that sudden, great fear and anxiety in our lives, when we’re not sure where Jesus is, or who we are, or when we feel empty inside and alone, it’s time to return to Jerusalem, whose name means, “City of Peace.” When we lack peace, we can be assured that we need to reconcile ourselves with God. This is especially true when we are undergoing various trials and difficulties; we are called to return to the Holy Land, return to our Father’s House. There we will find our Lord, listening and teaching. He hears our cry, and he speaks to us in the temple of our hearts, and he speaks to us through his Bride, the Church.

Father, give me courage to return to you, to learn from and imitate the Holy Family as I seek to find your Son Jesus, especially in times when I lack peace, feel anxiety, or experience fear. I know I can find him in Your House; He’s always there. Give me faith so that my life my glorify you. Amen.

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Family Matters

In the very first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (MT 1:1-17), we read the long list of Jesus’ genealogy, lists of successive generations of names, many of which we find hard to pronounce. For the people at the time of Jesus, this list had great meaning. Identities were wrapped up in family names, and this list demonstrated that Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jesse, David, and Solomon. Many of the prophecies regarding the Messiah were tied to his family of origin, so this genealogy also reveals that legitimacy of Jesus’ claims. After all, the Gospel of Matthew was written primarily to a Jewish community, and they would have clearly understood the importance of Jesus’ family heritage.

Another aspect of this list of names, is that it is full of saints and sinners. Great leaders and great sinners were all integral and part of the family history leading up to the birth of the Son of God. None of us choose our families, and neither did Jesus. His mother Mary had a real choice to make when she was visited by the Angel Gabriel. Mary could have rejected the message, but she instead chose to accept the life that God would give her. She lovingly said “yes” in a profound act of faith and hope-filled trust in God: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (NAB, LK 1:38) At these words, Mary’s womb became the Tabernacle of our Savior as the God-man Jesus was conceived. The Word of God became man through the words of a woman.

Father, I thank you for my family. We are also a mixture of saints and sinners, and although I did not choose them, they somehow chose me. I know that my life is a gift that came about through all of the historical circumstances, happenings, and choices that were made, generation after generation, from people I have never known, but without whom, I would not be here. My very DNA carries on the imprint of these now-forgotten souls. May they, and all the faithful departed, rest in your peace, and may I one day be reunited with them at the table of your Eternal Banquet in Heaven. Amen.

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