Sunday, December 27, 2015

Feast of the Holy Family: two reflections

The Family of Jesus

1.     What exactly happened in that family?
2.     The family of Jesus wanted to bring him back home because he might have lost his head. We see this in Mk3/20-21 and 31-35.
3.     In this passage the family “set out to seize him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’’ (Mk3/21). They wanted to SEIZE him; arrest him; put their hands on him; lay hold of him. The same word, “seize”, will be used later in the Mark account (see Mk14/1) to refer to the action of the Roman and Jewish authorities when they will arrest Jesus. So at this point the family of Jesus plays the same role as the social authorities.
4.     Then Jesus responds by taking a distance from his own family and pointing to AN OTHER FAMILY. To belong to that other family, he says, is to do the will of God. A new fraternal “family” life starts to revolve around Jesus based on listening to him and doing God’s will.
5.     Later in the account of Mark we read again something about the family of Jesus. See Mk6/1-6. Jesus notes that a prophet is with honor OUTSIDE and NOT INSIDE the family.  Honor is elsewhere EXCEPT in the native place and family.  “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house” (6/4). Again here is a picture of what may have been going on between Jesus and his family. Bible experts will say that this must have a historical base too; it is not just theological.
6.     In the Acts of the Apostles and in some letters of Paul we get a glimpse of the way the family started to behave after the death-resurrection. If the gospel accounts speak of pressuring Jesus to silence him, now we see family members being in the midst of the Christian communities. We can think of James who became head of the Jerusalem community (Act12/17; 21/18 and Gal2/9). There must have been a “CONVERSION” in the family of Jesus.

Lost in the Temple

1.     Luke does not offer historical the details of the infancy of Jesus. He offers a “theological” view of the traits of the adult Jesus through his infancy narrative. Luke offers a scene that announces the mission of the adult man, Jesus. He makes a “catechism” for his readers.
2.     In the caravan the men and women move together. Jesus is 12 years of age, as Luke writes, and this is an age not of little kids nor of adults. Jesus can thus join the women or the men in the caravan. There is no reason for Mary and Joseph to worry about his whereabouts. At the moment when each family gathers, Joseph and Mary discover that Jesus is missing. The two leave the caravan to turn back towards Jerusalem.
3.     After three days of searching Mary then asks a question. The question is not about Jesus! It is about the couple: “Son, why have you done this to US? YOUR FATHER AND I have been looking for you with great anxiety (Lk2/48)”. Bible experts have ways of interpreting this statement. One element is worth mentioning. Mary calls the infant “son” and not “my son” or “my child”. She says “son”. Experts will say that this “captures” the identity of Jesus.
4.     Luke is not doing history here. He aims to “teach” the reader about the identity of the Jesus who will be adult. His identity is not defined by the mother who gave birth to him but by his relationship with God. That identity has been given by the Angel Gabriel, by the angel in Christmas Eve, by Simeon and Anna at the Temple.
5.     And so Jesus, in the question of Mary, is not the child of the couple. He is not “their” Jesus. The story goes to say that Jesus returns to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph. Yes, Jesus becomes “obedient to them” (2/51) and some commentaries say that this is his way of obeying the Father in heaven by accepting the conditions of the incarnation which includes cultural life. Yet, now this Jesus is quite “different” in the eyes of Mary and Joseph. The earlier cold reply, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? (2/49)” has marked a break, a crack. Later in Luke’s account this will be clear. The members of his family…”are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (8/21).
6.     Experts say that Jerusalem, for Luke, is the city of beginnings. Annunciation to Zechariah was done there Luc, Jerusalem is the fulfillment of the cross, the first apparitions of the Risen one is in Jerusalem, the Pentecost that starts the Church is in Jerusalem. So to place the 12 year old boy in the Jerusalem Temple has its theology too. His first words about his Father are said here.
7.     On the road from Jerusalem Jesus explains to two disciples on their way to Emmaus the meaning of the scriptures and shows how scriptures relate to his mission. The adult Jesus has a way of understanding the scirptures that disturbs others. He provokes surprise and controversy. This has been announced by Simeon when the child Jesus was brought to the Temple: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted” (2/34).
8.     Mary and Joseph may have enormous difficulty comprehending the response of the 12 year old boy. Luke presents them as faithful followers of the Jewish tradition and he also portrays them as confused. Just like the disciples, the couple “incarnate” the struggles of an adventurous faith.
9.     Now Luke writes about three days of seeking for the child. That evokes, for his readers, the three days of the empty tomb and then the apparitions. Jesus asks, as a child, “Why were you looking for me?” The same question will be raised in the empty tomb, a question of the two men in dazzling clothes: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?” (24/5). Luke has his style of writing.
10.           On the road to Emmaus the two disciples lost “their” Jesus. Their expectations about Jesus did not allow them to recognize Jesus as they walked along. Mary and Joseph could not understand the response of Jesus.
11.           The disciples on the road to Emmaus then had their hearts burning. Mary, herself, keeps the events in her heart. It is in the heart that understanding happens. The disciples, after understanding, had to renounce their expectations of Jesus. Mary must have passed through the same process.
12.           In Luke’s “theology” what we know in faith is not acquired. For Luke the theme of moving…walking…taking a path…is important. Like Mary and Joseph and like the disciples to Emmaus we begin with expectations about God and, as my teachers in college like to say, with “pre-judgements”. But suddenly God is not present as we expect. He shows up differently. Unexpectedly. Disturbingly. He takes us on a different route. The story of the lost Jesus in the Temple may tell us that we are led to unexpected routes to pursue our search for God.

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