‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’
Feast of the Holy Family Year C
In this reading we encounter the mystery of the Son of God who has become man, as Jesus astounds the Temple doctors with his learning. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
41 Every year his parents used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. 43 When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. 44 They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. 45 When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.
46 Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; 47 and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. 48 They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’ 49 ‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied. ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ 50 But they did not understand what he meant.
51 He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.
Other readings: Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6,12-14 Psalm 127 Colossians 3:12-21
Today’s gospel gives us a rare glimpse of the ‘hidden life’ of Jesus, the years he spent under the care of Mary and Joseph. Luke displays their fidelity to their Jewish faith, and he underlines the autonomy of the young Jesus in staying behind in Jerusalem. We encounter the mystery of the Son of God who has become man. He is fully human and subject to his parents, but from his earliest years Jesus is involved in his Father’s affairs. The Temple doctors are astounded at the learning of Jesus, and this prepares for the astonishment of the crowds once his public ministry begins.
The story reaches its climax with the finding of Jesus by his parents. Luke stresses the anxiety of Mary, foreshadowing the three days of anguish when Jesus dies. His parents did not understand Jesus’ words, but Mary will ‘store these things in her heart’. She is the contemplative who receives the word and puts it into practice. Luke brings the stories of Jesus’ early life to an end by reminding us that Jesus grew in wisdom as the years passed.
What does this story of Jesus’ adolescence really teach us?
How is Luke preparing us for later events in the gospel story?
Let us pray for patience with ourselves and with others as we seek to grow in wisdom.
Let us pray for all our young people that they will be open to doing God’s will.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy