Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Holy Family

Colossians 3:12-17 / Luke 2: 42-52

And all that heard Him were astonished at His wisdom and His answers. And seeing Him they wondered.

We might be forgiven if it is we who marvel at the astonishment if the doctors in the Temple, and even of the Blessed Mother and Joseph her spouse. We are, after all, accustomed to hear, or at least to read, the wisdom and answers of the Word made flesh. We expect him to disclose the deep mysteries of the prophets, to make manifest the light of the world that scatters the darkness. He is the Son of God, and we are by now prepared to anticipate his response to his parents: Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?

Yet, where both we and they fail to be stupefied is in what follows: And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. The one by whom and through whom all things were made, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who was in the beginning with God and was God was subject to the very creatures whom he made, and who were themselves, like all creatures, subject to him. It is easy to understand the failure of Mary and Joseph to find this amazing. After all, despite the rather wondrous events surrounding the birth of Jesus and the drama of the flight into Egypt, nothing suggests that the twelve years preceding the finding in the Temple were anything other than ordinary. The subjection of a child to his parents was expected, even if Jesus' submission was more than exemplary.

We, however, are at risk of glossing over the deep mystery here. So accustomed are we to recognize in Jesus the Word made flesh, to hear of his works of power and might, his healing of illness and casting out of demons, his words of wisdom and salutary teachings, that we ignore the humility of a God who made himself obedient to his own creatures whom he had come to redeem, and did so from his infancy to mature adulthood. What we have here is more than a model of good Christian filial piety, although it certainly is that. We are aiming too low if the mystery of the Holy Family is only a divine blueprint for peaceful and fruitful family life.

Rather, what we see in the subjection of Jesus to his earthly parents is part of God's saving work by which he is drawing the whole of the wayward world back into its rightful natural obedience, and even more drawing that same world into his eternal Filial obedience to the Father. Like all of Christ's acts in the flesh, the subjection of the Son to Mary and Joseph opens the way and, if we let it, produces in us not merely the disposition to be rightly ordered to persons of value in the world, but the supernatural disposition to be made sons of the Father of all. This is the joyous mystery we celebrate on the Feast of the Holy Family, that Jesus completed in himself what he completes in each of his elect through the mystery of baptism, the bringing to life of his brothers, of new sons sharing in the eternal life of the Godhead itself.

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