My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
HOME IS WHERE THE FAMILY IS
The idea, dream, and reality of family is so strong and durable that we use it to describe all that is best about human gatherings. We speak of the family of nations, of our church and parish families. The greatest compliment we can pay a friend or gracious host is to say that we feel at home with them, we feel part of the family.
Families are the first crucibles in which love is tested and tempered. Jesus himself was one of three people who lived in the shadow of each other. This family, like our own, did not always “get it right,” but they always tried to. These three “amateurs” were on holiday, and one of them got lost. Two were worried sick and took great measures to find the third, a boy after all, who was seeking the meaning of his calling. He found his vocation—to do his Father’s work—but he also returned home with his parents.
Today’s feast is new as feasts go, and it sets us this year in a very modern crisis. Amid conflicting schedules and commitments, a young man, testing the limits, has strayed from his parents and gone off to the big city. Mary and Joseph search frantically, only to find the child Jesus in the temple, conversing with the elders and scholars of the law, who are amazed at his wisdom.
In the time of Jesus, the temple was the religious center of Jewish ritual. Outside of Jerusalem, people gathered in the synagogues, centers of learning, for daily prayer and study. Still, everyone longed to journey to the temple to participate in the offerings, and to fulfill certain obligations of the law that could only be done there. On this feast, we catch a glimpse of the family of Jesus: parents dealing with the normal stresses of raising a child, and yet completely grounded in the ways of faith and tradition.
There has always been an appreciation in Christianity for the value of pilgrimage—the journey to holy places that is a symbol of our life’s journey to God, and a sense of connection to important events in our family history. During the Christmas season, many of us undertake pilgrimages to the family homestead for festival meals, to the parishes where we were formed in the faith, or perhaps even to a beautiful manger scene or festival of lights.
There are few better days than this in our calendar for spending time with the family, especially on a short pilgrimage to a favorite place. Just make sure that no one gets left behind. Think about it!
—Fr. David J. Kozak