Taking a leaf from the Bible Pope Francis insisted on the importance of the family which he described as a treasure to be protected and defended every day. He was addressing the crowd after the Angelus on Sunday.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, and the liturgy invites us to reflect on the experience of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, united by an intense love and animated by great trust in God. Today’s evangelical passage (Cf. Luke 2:41-52) recounts the journey of the family of Nazareth to Jerusalem, for the feast of Passover.
However, on the return journey, the parents realized that their 12-year-old son was not in the caravan. After three days of searching and of fear, they found Him in the Temple, seated among the Doctors, intent on discussing with them. At the sight of the Son, Mary and Joseph “were astonished” (v. 48) and his Mother expressed their apprehension, saying: “Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously” (Ibid.). Astonishment — they “were astonished” — and anxiety – “anxiously, your father and I” — are the two elements on which I would like to call your attention: astonishment and anxiety.
In the family of Nazareth, astonishment never failed, not even in a dramatic moment as the loss of Jesus: it’s the capacity to be astonished in face of the gradual manifestation of the Son of God. It’s the same astonishment that struck the Doctors of the Temple, amazed at his understanding and his answers” (v. 47). But what is astonishment, what does it <mean> to be astonished? To be astonished and to marvel is the opposite of taking everything for granted; it’s the opposite of interpreting the reality that surrounds us, and the events of history, only according to our criteria. And a person who does this doesn’t know what marvel is, what astonishment is. To be astonished is to open oneself to others, to understand others’ reasons: this attitude is important to heal compromised relations between people, and it’s also indispensable to heal the open wounds in the realm of the family. When there are problems in families, we take it for granted that we are right and we close the door to the others. Instead, it’s necessary to think: “But what good does this person have?” And to marvel at this “good.” And this helps family unity. If you have problems in the family, think of the good things that your relative has with whom you have problems, and marvel at this. And this will help to heal family wounds.
The second element that I would like to take from the Gospel is the anxiety that Mary and Joseph felt when they couldn’t find Jesus. This anxiety manifests the centrality of Jesus in the Holy Family. The Virgin and her husband had received that Son, they protected Him and saw Him grow in age, wisdom, and grace in their midst, but He grew especially in their heart; and, little by little their affection and understanding grew in their relations with Him. See why the family of Nazareth is holy: because it was centered on Jesus; all Mary’s and Joseph’s attentions and solicitudes were directed to Him.
That anxiety they felt during the three days that Jesus was lost, should also be our anxiety when we are far from Him when we are far from Jesus. We should feel anxious when we forget Jesus for more than three days, without praying, without reading the Gospel, without feeling the need of His presence and of His consoling friendship. And often days pass without my remembering Jesus, but this is bad, this is very bad. We should feel anxiety when these things happen. Mary and Joseph looked for Him and found Him in the Temple while He was teaching. We too, especially in the house of God, can encounter the divine Teacher and receive His message of salvation. In the Eucharistic celebration, we have a living experience of Christ. He speaks to us, He offers us His Word, He illumines us, He illumines our path; He gives us his Body in the Eucharist from which we draw vigor to face the difficulties of every day.
And today we go back home with these two words: astonishment and anxiety. Am I able to be astonished when I see others’ good things, and so resolve family problems? Do I feel anxious when I have moved away from Jesus?
Let us pray for all the families of the world, especially those in which, for different reasons, peace and harmony are lacking. And we entrust them to the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth.