Christmas reminds us that Jesus Christ comes through our family in the same manner He came through the husband and wife of Joseph and Mary. It is right and fitting that within the octave or eight days of Christmas we also celebrate this Sunday the Feast of the Holy Family. In this world of broken families, by choice or by circumstances, the gospel reminds us that a family is always made up of a father, mother and child: When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Lk.2:48). But more than our human families, Christmas reminds us most of all of our being a family of God with Him as our Father: And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man (Lk.2:49-52).
The good news is that we all remain God’s children no matter how old we may be like Nat King Cole singing “to kids from one to ninety-two” which the beloved disciple reminds us in the second reading, “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yes so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1Jn.3:1). It is becoming disheartening when people claim that Christmas is for kids because of the superficial things about the season like happiness over gifts. We seem to have forgotten that Christmas came because of adults like Joseph and Mary, Zechariah and Elizabeth who remained children of God in being obedient to His holy will which is at the very core of experiencing Christ’s coming not only on Christmas Day when we remain like children. This Sunday we are invited to join Mary and Joseph in searching for the child Jesus whom we have often lost in our busy schedules, responsibilities and careers so we may also rediscover in the process our being children of the Father in heaven.
See the beauty of the response of Jesus to His parents upon finding Him at the temple, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk.2: 49). Though Jesus Christ is truly human like us in everything except sin, growing up and maturing in all aspects, His divine Sonship has always been clear with Him even as a 12 year-old child. His intimacy with the Father was never lost in His becoming human. His being the Son of the Father in heaven is the very core of His mission that we always hear Him telling us in His preaching about His being one with the Father and most of all, of the need for us to become children to be included in His kingdom. This He reveals to us in three ways through this only episode about His childhood as recorded by St. Luke. First is His complete freedom as a person.
Jesus has always been free from so many conventions and rules even laws that limit humans from being totally free for God as Father. Remember how Joseph His legal father also showed that true holiness is abiding in the Laws of Moses based on love that he decided to leave Mary in silence after learning of her pregnancy. But after hearing the angel’s explanation in a dream, Joseph freely decided on himself based on his love for God, for Mary and for Jesus to take her as his wife. How funny that when we were growing up we kept on demanding for freedom from our parents thinking that being free is being able to do whatever pleases us. Then we realize that true freedom is choosing what is good, what is true. That true freedom leads us to be more loving and faithful. Too often it seems that as the world gives so much emphasis on freedom, the fact remains that the more we try to be free, the more we become unfree, finding ourselves imprisoned and caught up in too much binds and traps that most of us would always go somewhere to be alone, to have “me time” because we are not free deep within as we have forgotten our basic identity as beloved children of God the Father. Jesus was so free that He stayed behind at the Temple because deep within Him he was at home at His Father’s house. And deep within Him He spoke freely of His Father that amazed the experts with Him at the Temple because they were constricted with many concepts and thoughts about God when Jesus was so free to share the love He has inside.
And here lies the beauty of true freedom that leads to amazement and wonder, to being surprised by something bigger, greater, and so beautiful. Poets claim that children are the closest to God and the spiritual realms because they always have the sense of wonder and awe. Even Mary and Joseph must have been amazed at the response of the child Jesus, reminding them of the announcements made to them by the angel before His coming. In this age of Netflix and daily video streaming of everything, we are being robbed of the simple and deep joy of being surprised unlike when we were younger that we have to wait for the next series of the Knight Rider or Dallas or ChiPS. With these modern technologies, the more we have become not free at all as we just follow the flow of networks, tech giants, advertisers and markets. We have been imprisoned by economics and profits along with gimmicks that we miss life in the process. The finding of Jesus at the Temple reminds us that our God is a God of surprises, that when we are truly free for the Father in heaven, there is always awe and amazement with life. We live and do not rush, enjoying time and every present moment in life, unafraid of what would happen next. Then, we become grateful or thankful for everything we have, material and spiritual.
Every Sunday as children of God we gather in the Holy Mass we call Eucharist, the Greek word for thanksgiving. In the first reading we have heard Hannah offering her son Samuel to the temple as her thanksgiving for the gift of a child after God answered her prayers. The gospels teem with so many occasions when Jesus would pray often to praise and thank God His Father, even in public. His life is a thanksgiving in itself that He gave it entirely to the Father for us. Though I am not a beauty pageant expert, I feel that Ms. Catriona Gray’s winning the Miss Universe title was largely because of her childlike traits of being free, amazing, and thankful. Only a child-like attitude like hers can see the silver linings amid the children growing at the slums of Tondo and still be grateful. It is exactly what Jesus had said that“unless you become like children, you shall never inherit the kingdom of heaven” that she was eventually crowned as Miss Universe!
To be a child is to owe one’s existence from another, from God and from parents and elders. When we teach our children to always sayplease and thank you including po and opo, we are actually reminding them of that deep reality within each of us that we are here on earth because we were given as a gift. We are not really teaching them something new but more of awakening in them something inherent that our existence is not of our own, our “I” or self not of our own making that we have to be thankful always to God and with our parents and with others. This is something we adults always forget or even discard and abandon especially when we fill to have achieved so much in life. We all remain children in our whole lives because are always in need of one another especially when we get older and eventually lose our memories and abilities to do things that rightly so, we get into a second childhood. On this Feast of the Holy Family, let us be thankful for the gift of one another, especially of our family. How lovely were those Christmas greetings on Facebook – “from our family to yours” – if each one remains a child of God, freely loving and surprising everyone of the reality of the God among us Jesus Christ, the Emmanuel. AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan
*Photo above by Jim Marpa. Used with permission. Below from Google.