[A homily on St. Mary, Mother of God (Oct 11), Gospel: St. Luke 2:43-51]
In the Name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
In this brief account of Jesus and his parents at the temple we are given an account of the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus is a regular boy going to the annual religious festival with His parents. Here the family carries out together the religious customs of sacrifice to God at the Temple in the holy city. There is no record of either parent not wanting to go or of Jesus wanting to play outside instead. The family goes dutifully together seeking that which is beyond the Temple but which is also there in the Temple for them. Going to the Temple as commanded by God is not a burden for them. At the Temple Jesus shows His parents that He is not just there because they brought Him there or forced Him to go. Rather He amazes both His parents and the doctors of the Temple by His learning and example. Nowadays, it is easy to pit the learning of theology against prayer and vice versa. One might be concerned about the dangers of learning theology as an intellectualization of the faith and forget about the discipline of faith and prayer. While another might focus on the discipline of prayer and avoid learning too much about theology. This is a false anti-thesis since both have to do with the things of God. Jesus is not against following the customs associated with attending the religious feast and the life of prayer nor is he against learning and teaching the things of God. Rather, He involves Himself, as a child, in both divine worship and in the learning and teaching of the things of God. So much so that He places the things of God above His own family. Here we see the boy Jesus worship God and then teach the wise doctors about His Father. Meanwhile his parents, having faithfully completed their religious obligations, have returned home. When they realize that He is not with them it is three days until they find Him in the Temple.
Hear how we might understand Jesus’ parents finding Him in the temple in these words of a church father: “Learn where those who seek Him find Him, not every where, but in the temple. And do thou then seek Jesus in the temple of God. Seek Him in the Church, and seek Him among the masters who are in the temple. For if thou wilt so seek Him, thou shalt find Him. They found Him not among His kinsfolk, for human relations could not comprehend the Son of God; not among His acquaintance, for He passes far beyond all human knowledge and understanding. Where then do they find Him? In the temple! If at any time thou seek the Son of God, seek him first in the temple, thither go up, and verily shalt thou find Christ, the Word, and the Wisdom.” (CA, III, 98)
Mary is rightly concerned and worried. “Son, why hast Thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing.” Mary knows Whose Son Jesus is when she speaks of Joseph as Jesus’ father, yet Joseph is given her and Jesus by God that through His earthly parents He may be given God’s care and protection. Mary reminds Jesus that He is but a child. Jesus turns around and startles both His parents by telling them He must be about His Father’s business. Earlier they had as a family worshipped the heavenly Father. Now they do not understand what Jesus says. We see that Jesus has a human nature. Here He is saying that there is more to Him than His human nature. This revelation of Jesus to His parents shows the falseness of the teaching that says that Jesus only became divine at around age 30 when the Spirit descended upon Him at His baptism. Rather, this moment at the Temple leads us back to Jesus’ birth, His Incarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He is made man, yet He is called “Emmanuel,” “God with us.” Mary, is undoubtedly reminded of this, as Jesus teaches them of things beyond their understanding. Is it not Mary who ponders these things in her heart?
Mary sorrows again. This boy, her Son, conceived by the Holy Ghost, “being of one substance with the Father,” grows up and is crucified to death with her there. The death of His Son on the cross is God’s sacrifice for sin, the fulfillment of all the earthly sacrifices in the Temple. By His blood we are made clean. For three days His family sorrows. On the third day they find Him, risen in the flesh, and they rejoice. He is going to the Father but not until He can breathe upon the Apostles His Spirit and leave His Church with the comfort and salvation in the forgiveness of sins. In the work of the Holy Ghost people are drawn to the cross of Christ and the true worship of God the Father in the Church. Here the sacrifice of Christ is distributed through the preaching, hearing and learning of His Word and the Holy Supper. At Church, the faithful are strengthened in the faith, in body, mind and spirit, because here, God who is everywhere, chooses to give us Christ Himself, crucified and risen. Jesus teaches us here and He leads us to glorify the Father in the Holy Ghost.
Today is the Feast of Blessed Mary, Mother of God. God gave the world His Son through Mary. This is a mystery, that through Mary’s womb, God caused “righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Where did Mary find Jesus? In the temple. What was He doing? He was about His Father’s business. God created the heavens and the earth and everything that is in them. He is everywhere at all times and in every place. This is beyond our understanding. Yet His being everywhere and our inability to understand everything about Him does not mean that we are to look for Him where we think He should be found. Jesus is found in the womb of the blessed Virgin. He is found in the holy Church. He is found risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. He is at the altar and on your tongue. We can easily be misled by sin and temptation to disregard the holy things of God or take them for granted. Jesus showed His parents and us what truly are the more important things. After pointing His parents to His Father’s business “He went down with them . . . and was subject to them.” Jesus brings together the worship, the teaching and the life of the family so that they are not one against the other. From teaching the Word He takes us to the altar. There He leads us to His Father’s business. He submitted to His Father’s will on the cross. Now He leads us to His Father’s House. Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the †Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.