The Sunday after Christmas we celebrate the feast of The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Christmas is not a day, but a season. During the season, we celebrate that God has become human from different angles. Christmas really is a celebration of Jesus’ divine humanity.
As any other human being, Jesus was born in a family and as the text says, he “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” Jesus had to learn, and grow, like any of us. Interesting how many church people would have a problem with that statement.
It is very clear in the gospels that Jesus had to learn, first of all about who he was, what he meant, his mission and the scope of that mission. There are turning points in his life, as we have reflected about before, when he re-shapes, widens his scope, acquires a new understanding. Truly human, he had to learn a trade—he will be known as the carpenter’s son—and there is increasing agreement among scholars that he had to receive some schooling as a rabbi to be allowed to stand up in the synagogue and read the scrolls and preach about them.
His temperament had to be shaped by Mary and Joseph during the childhood years we know so very little about. All the traits that he showed as an adult—his fairness, his practical wisdom, his basic relationship with the Father, his concern for the marginalized, even his storytelling skills he had to learn from Mary and Joseph. We celebrate the holiness of this family that taught Jesus well, and this celebration becomes a prayer that our families will be holy as the Holy Family. I pray especially that our families will be holy in educating children, our future, in the values of the gospel, in generosity and concern for others, especially those most in need.
Probably this will end up being the homily, but I saw something else that I am still thinking about, something that caught my attention in the gospel (perhaps you can help me to polish it with your comments.) Here it goes:
There is something else in the text that Mary, Joseph and Jesus himself had to learn. Simeon, speaking in the guise of a prophet, says of Jesus that he will be “light for revelation to the Gentiles,” but also a “sign that will be contradicted.” To be light and to be sign of contradiction are two very different things.
I live this tension in my own ministry, between being light—encouraging, supporting, uplifting people, giving direction, even as lost as I feel sometimes myself—and being sign of contradiction—the prophetic call to point at shortcomings, lack of deep faith… A tension between conveying the love of God, the joy of faith and life, and the necessary criticism—including self-criticism—of a pastor. Jesus had to learn the art of the balance. Yes, clearly, to some he was always sign of contradiction, especially with the self-righteous, those who had the power and used it to oppress. But for instance, with the disciples, he was at times tender light, and at times sharp sign of contradiction.
Perhaps this part has little to do with the Holy Family celebration. Should I just not include it in the homily? Would you? Or perhaps you can think of some way to include it? Comment, or email me in private if you wish, but I am asking you to help this time.