Merry Christmas everyone. We continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus and today we celebrate the Holy Family and hear this famous story of the 12 year old Jesus getting left behind in Jerusalem, and staying for three days in the Temple, where he tried to teach the religious officials (which is always a dangerous and difficult undertaking!) I want to reflect with you on his question to his mother: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke writes that they did not understand what he was talking about, and I think we probably don’t either. So I thought we could look at three points about his question: living in relationship to God; being in God’s house; and growing up spiritually.
The first thing we notice in his question is that Jesus is completely focused on God and lives his life first and foremost in relationship to God his Father. That’s what Jesus does throughout his whole life, from 12 years old to thirty years old when he is in the Garden of Gethsemani to when he dies on the cross and surrenders himself to God. He lives completely for God. That is our vocation as well. We are called to live our lives first and foremost in relationship to God, to focus our hearts and energies on God, and to place God first in our lives, so that when we die, we will surrender ourselves to our beloved God.
Second, we notice that Jesus says he must be in God’s house, or as the older translations used to say, “to be about God’s business.” His loyalty and allegiance is to God’s house and God’s business and God. Jesus will not serve any other house or do any one else’s business or worship any other false god. He is loyal to God and God’s work and God’s house. This is another clue about our vocations. We too must try to be in God’s house, to be about God’s business, to be loyal to God first and foremost. But this is hard, because most people in the world are not loyal to God or God’s house. We have pledged allegiance to America; we are loyal to our soldiers, to the works of war, to the president and his work of death. If we are to follow Jesus, we have to renounce that work and do the work of God, and be loyal only to God’s house. So we can ask ourselves: how can we be in God’s house, and do God’s work and be ever more faithful to God? Whose house do we want to be in? Whose work are we doing? What work does God want us to do?
Finally, Luke writes that Jesus went back to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph and grew in grace and wisdom and age until he was ready to be baptized and proclaim God’s reign and walk the way of the cross, and so this suggests to me that we too have to grow in grace and wisdom, that we have to move from a childish faith, the religion of a five or ten year old, to a mature adult Christian faith, which is very hard. Jesus had to grow in grace and wisdom and so do we. And the journey of faith took him to places he never imagined from the desert with John the Baptist to the sea of Galilee with the fishermen and eventually to Jerusalem and the Temple and his trial and crucifixion.
I grew up thinking that the journey of faith would get easier as I grew older, but now I realize that the Gospel is trying to tell us that the journey of faith gets harder as we grow older because if we’re really following Jesus, we will be led to the cross. That’s why so many people live with the same faith they had when they were twelve, which is not a mature faith, or why people abandon their faith altogether. But I think the Gospel says we all have to grow up, not just physically and emotionally, but spiritually as well, which means we have to give our lives more and more to God, and follow Jesus by doing God’s work and seeking God’s house and God’s will and God’s way of love. This means walking through the fog into the unknown to the cross, to join Jesus’ nonviolent struggle of resistance against evil and transformation and disarmament of the world. This is a hard lesson, but if we dare grow up spiritually, we will no longer be just children, but the mature, beloved sons and daughters of God.
I think this is what we are all trying to do–by saying our prayers, reading the Gospels, receiving the sacraments, loving one another, and seeking God’s reign of love and peace on earth. So today the Gospel invites us to grow up with Jesus, to be about God’s house and God’s work, to live in relationship with God and to be loyal to God and to do God’s will no matter what anyone else says, no matter what the government or the world proclaims, so that over time, we really feel at home in God’s house and become God’s beloved sons and daughters.