December 27, 2015
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
The Gospel by LK 2:41-52
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As we just celebrated Christmas and are wrapping up the year, what are you planning for 2016? Did 2015 passed too quickly? Did you accomplish what you set up to do? Just like Mary and Joseph went in the caravan with their family and lost sight of Jesus, we could lose sight of our goals in the next couple of months.
Many people cannot imagine how the Virgin Mary lost sight of Jesus. It sounds irresponsible. Why did the gospels keep this huge mistake of the Virgin Mary? We are obviously judging from our perspective on how people should take care of our children. How could a mother, especially the Virgin Mary forget about Jesus? If you think about our babysitting plans, many times our families and our friends babysit our children as we have other things to do. In Jesus time the concept of family was not as narrow as our concept today. Family for us is Dad and Mom, but in the past and in many cultures still, family is: cousins, second cousins, grandparents and the immediate family. The family would be part of the raising of a child, it was everyone’s responsibility. Just like someone once said: it takes two to make a child, but it takes a whole village to raise him. In Jesus’ time everyone was in charge of his raising. As they all went from one city to another, Jesus spent time with different family members or relatives. However, Jesus decided to stay behind and went to the temple.
The temple is a constant theme in Jesus’ life. The temple represents the place where God is worshipped, where one can stay in silence and feel the presence of the Divine. Jesus did not shy away from finding the place where people talked and worshiped God. Jesus began teaching at a young age, asking questions and making people think. Jesus mission is to make people think about their relationship with God. In fact the Virgin Mary is famous for the word “pondering” or keeping in her heart what she saw and experienced of God.
The churches around us have lost the significance of the “meeting place”. Many times we have created these beautiful places of worship, but the real worship has gotten cold and distant. I always felt uncomfortable when I saw the temple so well decorated, but then the liturgy was just “blah” no real warm encounter with God. How can we have a blend of both: a great looking church and a liturgy that is awe inspiring?
What was Jesus doing in the temple: he was stimulating people’s mind through asking questions and sharing with them a different point of view. In the past the temples were academic places, places of philosophical questioning that would lead to wisdom. Today we are punished or frowned upon if we ask the wrong question.
A young man came to me at the end of the mass and asked me: If God can do everything: can he create a rock that is bigger than him, so big that he could not lift? His mother was devastated and upset. I told the mother, this is the place to ask questions like that. I am not afraid of hearing what people are saying out there, outside of the church. There are many people who complain about the way the church is living its mission. Many people feel that the church has forgotten why it was created. Understanding God’s immensity is something that our minds cannot handle easily. How could God be present everywhere? How can He be the beginning and the end? How can HE be fair when life is obviously unfair? The church is where those questions are addressed. My experience however was that people were intimidated and afraid of new ideas and new questions. But not only the people, even the priests and the bishops were not happy when those questions were raised. Everything changed with Pope Francis; he started his pontificate doing what Jesus did: he questioned the leadership of the church. Jesus questioned the way people were living their relationship with God. Both Jesus and Pope Francis have been criticized and accused of being too liberal, or even heretical. We should never shy away from questions, even when we are unable to answer them. Our young people are our future and we need to allow them to ask questions. They may not get there easily, but eventually they will get closer by asking, than by ignoring those questions.
As we celebrate Jesus first preaching in the temple through dialogue, let’s begin a dialogue with God. Let us not shy away from looking for answers to our problems. Let’s pray and ask God to help us have a clearer understanding of his plan for us. As you prepare for the New Year, take a minute away from the chaos of fireworks and focus your thoughts on God. Many of us have only one more year to live, others are getting ready to get married or to move away to College. The coming year is a year of change, let’s take advantage of what we have and enjoy it to the max. God bless you all and happy New Year!
Fr. Marc Angelo, PO Box 3414 Culver City CA 90231