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Celebrant: Canon Bernard Lordan.
On this First Sunday after the Epiphany, the Church continues to give us aspects of the early life of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Today’s Gospel (Lk. 2:42-52) focuses on the time during the Paschal season when the Holy Family made their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast. On the return trip, the men and women travelled separately and both Joseph and Mary thought that Jesus was with the other. Their sorrow knew no bounds when they discovered Jesus was nowhere to be found. Of course, being God, Jesus was not really lost, but to Joseph and Mary, he was missing and they did not know what happened to Him. In their return to Jerusalem, they found Him in the temple listening to the doctors of the law and asking them questions. Mary questioned Jesus, “Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold in sorrow thy father and I have been seeking thee.” Lk. 2: 48 Jesus replied, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Lk. 2:49. At first, it appears that Jesus was being inconsiderate of His parents, but on a closer analysis, we see a most important teaching in our spiritual lives. Our first obligation is to God. Jesus is being obedient to His father. This is the primary lesson in today’s liturgy for the Feast of the Holy Family. The second and closely-linked teaching is the need for charity within all of our relationships. St. Paul highlights this in today’s Epistle (Col. 3:12-17): “But above all these things have charity which is the bond of perfection.” Col. 3:14. These two virtues of charity and obedience are the essential virtues in every Catholic family.
Charity “is the bond of perfection.” Col.3:14
In every family, there is the need for love, kindness, and mercy for all the members of the family. We need to be patient with one another’s faults. Because charity “is the bond of perfection,” (Col. 3:14) it alone perfects all other virtues, and it alone is the virtue in which all perfection consists. Where there is love, then no sacrifice will be too difficult. Where there is no love, then even our good deeds will be just acts of self-love. This is why in our families we need to practice what St. Paul gives us in today’s Epistle: “Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity (goodness), humility, modesty, patience: bearing with one another and forgiving one another: even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also.” Col 3:12-13. These are the virtues that every member of the family needs to practice for true peace and harmony within the family.
Perfect Charity is doing God’s Will
All of our moral virtues must be motivated by charity or else they are not meritorious. This is why it is so important for the soul to be in the state of grace. Without sanctifying grace there are no meritorious actions. St. Thomas Aquinas gives us the reason for this because “It is charity which united our will to that of God in the most perfect fashion. From charity all the other virtues are derived and take their true strength... Charity is the end in view; all other things are means to that end. Therefore, there are no limits to the extent of charity; but there are limits in the other virtues.”
The reason why there is so much unhappiness in the world is because there is no peace in our hearts. Peace implies the right order of things. When we have ordered our lives to God with charity, we will be at peace. If we have not ordered our lives to God and His will, then we will never be at peace with ourselves or with others. This is why we must do all of our actions out of love for God. When our actions coincide with God’s will, then we show true love for God. If we do actions which are pleasing to ourselves and which are against God’s will as expressed in His Commandments and the duties of our state in life, then we will never be at peace and our hearts will be filled with disordered self-love.
“Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Lk. 2:49.
In Jesus’ reply to His Mother Mary, we see the essence of true charity. Jesus must obey God His Father first and foremost. It was His Father’s will that Jesus spend these three days in the temple praying and listening to and asking the Jewish doctors of the law questions about the Messiah. Jesus’ time away from Joseph and Mary was so mysterious that they did not fully understand it: “And they understood not the word that He spoke to them.” Lk. 2:50 Jesus needs to do the will of His Father rather than the will of His parents. Sooner or later, He will be leaving home to spread the Kingdom of His heavenly Father. Jesus does not blame His mother as St. Bede tells us: “He blames her not because she sought Him as her son, but forces her to raise the eyes of her mind to what He owes Him whose Eternal Son He is.”
Christ the God-Man
In order to understand the divine person of Jesus Christ, we must see that in His nature, He performs actions as God and actions as man. In the latter actions as man, He performs functions common to all men such as eating, sleeping, labouring etc.; and then He performs actions proper to Him as the God-man, the Redeemer, the Christ and these are called “Theandric” (of the God-man, partly of God, partly of man). These actions were those of teaching, working miracles, calling His disciples etc. With regard to the actions of man, Christ was willing to obey His parents from whom He had received His human nature. With the “Theandric” actions, which are of a higher order, His actions were received and directed by God alone. Thus Jesus answered His parents based on the higher authority of His Father with the actions of the “God-man.” This is why Jesus must be about “His Father’s business” (Lk. 2:4) which is the salvation of souls.