Grace: To remain in the things of the Father, as Jesus did, so that I can love him more dearly and follow him more closely.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 2:41-52
Reflection: The Gospels tell us nothing about the life of Jesus from the moment he returns from Egypt as an infant to the time he begins his public ministry around the age of thirty, with the exception of this one event when he travels with his parents to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Pope Emeritus Benedict, in Jesus of Nazareth, points out that the Torah required every Israelite to make a pilgrimage to the Temple for three great feasts: Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus and his parents were a part of one of these pilgrim communities, on its way to the Temple. In the Temple, these communities journeyed towards a place where they received their identity and unity from their encounter with God.
Rather than returning with his parents to Nazareth, Jesus decides to remain in the Temple. Viewed in light of the pilgrimage, it makes perfect sense that Jesus should desire to stay there, where he tells his parents that he must remain, literally, “in the things of the Father” (Lk. 2:49). Jesus receives his identity directly from God, for he is God, God the Son obedient to the Father’s will.
Jesus is an obedient Son. He is obedient to the Law of Moses as he fulfills the obligations of his religion. He travels with his parents to Jerusalem and is still subject to their discipline. But more importantly, his desire to stay in the Temple and “remain in the things of the Father” demonstrates that he is, first and foremost, obedient to his Father’s will. It is this obedience that will allow him to say “Thy will be done” on Calvary.
Jesus becomes who he is by accomplishing his Father’s will. The invitation for us in reflecting on the encounter of Mary, Joseph, and the teachers with Jesus in the Temple is for us to make Jesus’s desire to “remain in the things of the Father” our own. This desire is that which should direct us during our earthly pilgrimage and lead us ultimately to communion with God. It requires that we place the many gifts that we have received completely at God’s disposal and use them only to praise, reverence, and serve Him.
It is a challenge, and yet we benefit from the fact that we do not undertake this challenge on our own. We are members of communities that are on pilgrimage, including our families, friends, and ultimately, the Church.
Only by choosing to remain in the things of the Father do we become who God has created and called us to be.
Questions: Who are the people and communities with whom I find myself on pilgrimage at the moment? Do I find that they are helping me to encounter Christ in my life or not? Are there things that are preventing me from placing the many gifts that I have received completely at God’s disposal? If so, what are some of these things? Do I truly desire to remain in the things of the Father?