Sybil 1999

Gospel text

Luke 2: 41-52

41 The parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem every year for the Passover feast. 42 When he was 12 years old and they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast, 43 it happened that at the end of the period of the celebrations his parents returned to Galilee, while the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem without them knowing it. 44 Believing he was in the caravan, they traveled for a day before looking for him among relatives and people they knew. 45 And when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to seek him. 46 And after three days they found him in the temple complex, sitting in the midst of theologians, listening to them and questioning them. 47 And all his hearers were astonished by his understanding and the answers he gave. 48 When they saw him, his parents were stunned, and his mother said to him, "My child, why did you do that to us? Your father and I were looking for you all anxious". 49 He answered them, "Why did you seek me? Did you not know that I had to be in my Father's world?" But they did not understand the meaning of what he had just said to them. 51 And he went down with them to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother, for her part, carefully kept all his words in her heart. 52 Thus Jesus grew in wisdom and size, and as well in overflowing love before God and men eyes.


Like Mother like daughter? Not necessarily

Gospel commentary - Homily

Our children are not our children

A mother was happy to see her daughter attending university as she did a few years ago. Of course, biology did not have the prestige of the world of arts and painting where she shined, but it was still the university world. After graduating, not sure to make a living with biology, her daughter decides to go to a craft school and enroll in police techniques. "What, police officer? Is she really my daughter?" wondered the mother. How can the flesh of her flesh take pleasure in the subtleties of the law, the techniques of assault and defense, data on street gangs? But her heart bleeds more when, after three years of effort, the doors of the police academy close on her daughter after the failure of physical endurance tests. Then she felt helpless seeing her daughter taking a sideline job for several months as a security guard, before finally getting a job in a transport company. Today, she works for a big national railway company, driving locomotives that pull freight wagons a mile long, a world of mainly men. How can we say that our children are like us? Would not it be fair to say that children's role is to lead us in becoming something else? This is what the Gospel of today seems to say.

We know this story by heart. At age 12, Jesus escapes his parents who, after days of anguish, find him in the midst of theologians with the excuse that he must invest time in the knowledge of his Father from heaven. When you take this story literally, you will find some incredible things. How can parents take more than one day to realize the absence of their child on the road back to Nazareth? How can a child lodge and feed himself for three days in Jerusalem, a big village, without everyone being aware? But if we consider that our episode is part of what is known as the "infancy narratives", then we know that the story intends to mirror the adult life of Jesus into the child Jesus. Let's look at this a little closer.

The adult Jesus did not stop baffling people. When they say, "Is not this the son of Joseph, that one?", they mean how different he is from his parents. When in Galilee Jesus replies to those who tell him that his mother and his brothers want to meet him, "My mother and my brothers, they are those who listen to the word of God and put it into practice", we are witnessing a reality similar to the story of Jesus at the Temple at the age of 12 years. In spite of all the admiration we have for Joseph and Mary, Jesus followed his own way, and this way was really different from that of his parents. The current story says of his parents: "But they did not understand the meaning of what he had just told them." Why such an emphasis on distance? Because this is what opens us to God, to this infinite mystery.

There are parents who do not know their child, for lack of a continuous dialogue. But there are also those who engage in an incessant dialogue and then are surprised and disappointed by the turn of events: our child is not exactly what we would have liked, his or her choices hurt us. The temptation is great to blame the genes of the spouse or ancestors, or the influence of friends or the surrounding world. But why can not we just say: here is a Word of God who wants to remind us that our children are not really our children, they are rather a responsibility entrusted to us by their true Father and Mother, God himself.

But what is the obstacle that prevents us from welcoming our child in his or her difference? If we have not been able to welcome our own heart in its desires and aspirations, in its uniqueness and difference, but have yielded to the pressures of our entourage and have complied to what is standard, we will have great difficulty in accepting our child as he or she is. This is the importance of paying attention to what lives in us. "His mother," says the Gospel, "carefully kept all her words in her heart."

Joseph and Mary allowed Jesus to live his difference, and thereby allowed him to fulfill his mission and to be for us a source of life, while finding their own authenticity. In this they represent a holy family. Is this the road we want to follow?


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, September 2006