The image of the Holy Family is represented often in a Christmas card in a scene that is loving and peaceful. However, this can be misleading.  The picture we would need to encounter, is that of a real family which is filled with grace but still faces the difficulties and struggles of daily life.  Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were ordinary folks – Joseph was a carpenter who worked hard to support his family.  It was from his father that Jesus learnt his trade that became a means of earning an additional income for a living.

The families during the time of Jesus were obliged to follow strict cultural norms. The boys were upheld in status over the girls. The mother, aunties, and sisters (remember how Moses was looked after by his sister when he was left floating down the river) would take an active role in bringing up the boys.

The boys would be breastfed twice as long as the girls. The boys would be fed as often as they wanted food. Some boys turned out pampered. Due to this, strong bonds would develop between the boys and mothers.

There was an absence of a father figure in their lives until the age of puberty.  The boys would have an ambiguous identity until they arrived at puberty when they are initiated into the world of the male adults via a ceremony known as the Bar Mitzvah. Here they learn the harsh and hierarchical world of the men. From this age on, the fathers will teach their sons. However the bond that they had developed with their mothers remain deep and strong as this bonding was done during the impressionable period of their lives.

It was not an obligation for Jesus to keep the festival at 12 years old but it would be when he turned 13. Passover observance lasted for 8 days. How did Joseph and Mary miss the boy when they were returning from Jerusalem? The men and their sons who have passed the age of adolescence take one route and the women and children take another route. Jesus was at this stage of his life where his father might have thought that Jesus was still attached to his mother and that he had gone off with her and Mary our Mother could have thought that her son had finally moved on to the next stage and was making the journey with Joseph. Only when they came to the converging point of their routes did they realise that Jesus was missing.

What was Jesus doing? Culturally, he was breaking into the men’s world. He entered the world of the adults but more than that he was entering into the world of learned religious men. In the eyes of the rest, Jesus could be seen as just entering into the men’s world but the way Luke presents Jesus indicates that Jesus not only entered into the men’s world but into His own realm of the divine

by entering into dialogue with culturally learned men.

This is further expressed when Jesus said “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?” This verse reveals Jesus, as the Son of God who understood His Mission. Jesus’s question to Mary our Mother could be seen as Jesus culturally entering into the men’s world, where the men are independent of the woman’s control and direction in their lives. Sometimes this happens today when teenagers begin to rebel against their parents. This is an age-old pain that most parents go through and dread because the outcomes are uncertain. Instead of reprimanding Jesus, Mary kept all these in her heart. The tensions sometimes last for a long time because the parents sometimes cannot see that this is a rite of journey that teenagers go through. Still teenagers are to bear in mind that Jesus made his point but continued to live under the authority of Joseph and Mary. The fourth commandment was kept by Jesus as we all are called to do.

A Christian home must bear the likeness of the first Holy Family, a place where there is plenty of room for God.  A home is a home only when God exists and when He is the center of the family life.  A Christian home is the place where we learn to love by being first loved by our parents.  It is where we learn to show love to others.  God is love. When we are loved, and when we love, we experience God in our lives.

With love & gratitude, Margie and Jacqueline

Questions for Reflection

As we go through our life stages, do we take our struggles to God our Father?

In what ways can we better handle tensions in the family?

There is a need to recognise the gifts and talents of others. How do families accommodate this recognition?