This precious little piece of tradition given us by St Luke reveals something of the family, something of our Blessed Lady and something of Our Lord.
Every year they made this pilgrimage to the temple. Almost certainly the Holy Family followed the Jewish law and made a pilgrimage three times a year for the feast of the Passover, the feast of Pentecost and the feast of Tabernacles. The Holy Family was a pious Family, praying together, fulfilling the law together, a family whose life was lived in harmony with the religious feasts and seasons of the year, and lived like that with other like minded families who were on pilgrimage with them. As I am sure many of you do I thank God that my family was, is like that; prayer at home as a family, keeping the saints days and feast days, staying faithful to the days of fasting and abstinence and above all making the weekly pilgrimage to Mass.
The words between Jesus and Mary are astounding. Our Lord teaches his Mother. Mary says ‘your Father and I have been looking for you’ Jesus replies in effect ‘No. I am with my Father, my Father is not Joseph but God and I MUST be with him’. This is the same MUST we hear when twenty or so years later Jesus will teach that he must suffer greatly, he must be rejected, he must be killed and so rise again on the third day’.
From this his first Passover we see revealed the mystery of obedience which leads to his final Passover, the passion and cross. The sword of sorrow which will pierce May’s heart beneath the cross is hinted at in the three days Mary and Joseph spend looking for Jesus. To find him is to draw close the mystery of the passion and cross which is inseparable from divine love. If the family is built on love then the mystery of the cross will always be encountered at the heart of the family. Our response to that encounter must be Mary and Joseph’s. They did not understand but Mary pondered the words in her heart.
Finally a mediations on Jesus true God and true man. Returning home he grew in wisdom. It is clear from what he says in the temple that Jesus knows God the Father intimately and understands his mission, yet as a human being Jesus grows, living in a particular time and place, growing through the different phases of childhood, but in each time and place as a boy, a teenager a man giving full expression to the truth he has come to reveal. The exact relationship between human and divine we cannot fully explain but we can see the purely human equivalent in Mary fully receiving the word and then pondering it. Conceiving Jesus, giving birth then following to the cross, always in hope of the resurrection.
This form of discipleship in which, the truth, love, the word, Jesus, is fully present but must be allowed to grow, to be understood and to be revealed, is surely a model for families too.