The Feast of the Holy Family – 26 December 2021
Lectionary Readings: 1 Sam. 1:20-22. 24-28; Ps. 84:2-3. 5-6. 9-11; 1 Jn. 3:1-2. 21-24; Lk. 2:41-52
Theme: “I must be in my Father’s House”
The Gospel passage presented for Year C in the Liturgical Cycle is called “The Finding of the Boy Jesus in the Temple” by Raymond E. Brown,(Collegeville, Minnesota: 1978). I have always found this account out of place in the infancy narratives. Raymond Brown states that if the theme of the Christmas feast “involves the first revelation of the presence of God’s Son in the world” then this narrative is where it should be.
There are discrepancies in its placing at the end of chapter 2 of Luke. We read in verse 40: The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.This presents us with an ending to the Infancy Narratives. Brown gives four reasons why this narrative (vv. 41-52) is one that was added and can stand on its own. Firstly, it is a different literary genre from the Matthean and Lucan infancy narratives. This is part of Jesus’ hidden life narratives which appear in the apocryphal gospel dealing with Jesus’ youth, i.e.: Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Secondly,the story of the finding in the temple does not fit into the Lucan diptych arrangement of the infancy narrative. Thirdly, it is known that Joseph is not the father of Jesus, and therefore why does Mary say that? From the revelation of the Angel Gabriel, they know that Jesus is the Son of God, and therefore why do they not understand Jesus’ words: Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? Fourthly, Brown maintains that the Greek of ‘The Finding’ narrative “is less marked by Semitisms than the Greek of the infancy narrative.” (Pp.37-39)
In studying the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke we hear echoes of biblical characters in the First Testament: Moses, Samson and Samuel. We take note that the first reading for this Solemnity is taken from 1 Samuel 1 where Hannah says to Eli: I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord. (Vv. 27-28)
What do we learn from our Gospel passage? Firstly, verse 41 reminds us again (seen in verses 22-40) of the devoutness of “his parents”. Jesus was brought up as a devout Jew. Secondly, Jesus was twelve years old – the age for his Bar Mitzvah was thirteen – then he would be an adult male and would be expected to be able to read the Torah and discuss it with the teachers of the Law. Thirdly, in this narrative we find him doing just that “and all who heard him, were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” I think that as a curious and intelligent young boy he wandered into where the teachers were and, forgetting time and thinking his parents would know where he was, he stayed to listen and ask questions. Fourthly, Mary and Joseph, being good parents, thought their son would be where he should be in the family group. But he wasn’t to be found anywhere. So they went in search of him. After three days they found him – on the ‘third day he rose again’. Fifthly, Mary, a true mother, is very upset and tells him how she and his father have suffered. Sixthly, Jesus uses the words: my Father’s house – that is where he is meant to be. Jesus is concerned about his Father’s will and work. This sets on course what his life will be about – in his Father’s will, he belongs to everyone, not to any specific family or clan or nation. Seventhly, Mary and Joseph do not understand but Mary keeps these words in her heart and ponders on them. Eighthly, Jesus returned with his parents and was obedient to them and a similar statement is made as in v. 40. This is known as Jesus’ hidden life – his preparation for his Father’s call to his mission which we shall see in his Baptism.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. What does the Holy Family teach us about living as a family or in a community? Bibliography: Brown, Raymond E. An Adult Christ at Christmas (Collegeville, Minnesota: 1978); www.BibleGateway: NRSV; NABRE.
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Teresa Chellew, Durban, South Africa, Bat Kol Alumna: 2008