Just a few words on today’s gospel. Luke tells us that Jesus was 12 years old. At that time a 12 year old was considered an adult, one ready to learn a trade and start earning a living.
They had no amber alerts in those day so we can just image the panic Mary and Joseph endured as they search the city looking for their son. We can imagine Mary’s exasperation at his thoughtlessness. Why have you treated us like this? What were you thinking of? Mary’s was certainly a normal reaction. Jesus didn’t help the situation with his reply, ‘did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?’
Yet, think about it. Jesus did not come to earth in order to be Mary and Joseph’s child. Just the opposite. Mary and Joseph came into earthly existence to prepare him for his role as the adult son of the Father of all things. How often have you heard the complaint that parents never let us grow up, never treat us as adults? We could be in our 40’s and still a mother asks, ‘where are you going,’ ‘what time did you get in last night’ or any number of similar questions that might be appropriate for a teenager but not for an adult. How often do adults resent disapproving looks or comments from a mother or a father? We’re never allowed to grow up and though you may promise yourself you won’t treat your sons and daughters this way, how often have you thought to yourself ‘I’m sounding just like my mother, just like my father.’
I’ve mentioned before that parents are supposed to give their children roots and wings. Parents know from experience that there are times when the wings take their adult sons and daughters far from their roots. How often have parents said “This was not the way you were raised.” But it is good to remember that deep roots are stronger than wings.
Mary and Joseph had to learn that they were to give Jesus roots, which they did, and wings, wings that would carry him far from Nazareth, wings that would carry him to Calvary and beyond. But Mary was always a mother. She never stopped worrying about him as she heard He was provoking the authorities more and more. She was His mother to the very end.
Parents will always be parents, they will never stop worrying about their sons and daughters, parents will always be there with wanted or unwanted advice.
On this feast of the Holy Family we pray for all parents that they come to know the greatest gift they can give their children is that they nurture them in such a way that when they take wing they are mature, responsible people bearing witness to their family and their faith – by what they say and what they do.