Mary – Session 5

INTRO Having explored the infancy of Jesus (as given us by Luke) and Mary’s unique role and message to us in that story, we now enter the transition phase, exploring the strange incident when Jesus is twelve years old (according to the customs of the time, on the cusp of manhood). This passage (Luke 2: 41-52) prepares us for the public ministry of Jesus while emphasising Mary and Joseph as growing (painfully) in understanding of the person and mission of their child. This should resonate with parents of teenage children – your child is a mystery beyond you, less ‘your child’ and more ‘their own person’. It is a painful and challenging period of human and personal development for the young person and for their parents and family.

[1] ‘Every year his parents used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover’  (Luke 2: 41). Passover is central to the Gospel story, central to understanding the saving and liberating mission of Jesus. The Johannine account of Jesus Ministry is gathered around three celebrations of the Passover, reaching its climax in the third and final Passover which saw Jesus’ crucifixion (His ‘Hour of Glory’). The purpose of Passover, centred upon a family meal, was for the People of God to enter into the experience of being a liberated People, the experience of the God of the Covenant who ‘heard the cries of My People’ (Exodus 3: 7-9) and set them free, and particularly to pass on the story and experience to the children of each new generation. God’s love for his people, God’s love for the whole of humanity is a liberating love, liberating them from every oppression and injustice and slavery. We forget this at our peril, for then we reduce faith to a pious exercise of self-comforting (luxuriating in a false and essentially individualistic pseudo-spirituality), rather than the divine energy to radical love and transformation. And of course our Mass, the Eucharist, is rooted in the Passover Meal of ‘remembering’, re-connecting, being immersed in the liberating work of God in Christ Jesus. It is a travesty to reduce the immense grandeur of the Eucharist to a personal devotion. According to the Law, the passover lambs could only be sacrificed in the Temple, so the full Passover meal could only be celebrated in or near Jerusalem. So it was one of the great Pilgrimage Feasts in an overcrowded city. All males were meant to present themselves in Assembly before God, bringing a gift (a sacrifice). The seven day journey from Nazareth in the north to Jerusalem in the south was an annual major exercise, and clearly involved many in the Nazareth community (Luke 2: 44 – the ‘caravan’). Luke is introducing the theme of the Passover celebration, foreshadowing the climax of Jesus life, when He the Passover Lamb would be sacrificed for the redemption of the world.  And Mary would be there, at the foot of the Cross.

[2] ‘Three days later’ (Luke 2: 46). Jesus is lost to his parents for three days and then they discover Him, in the Temple questioning the Teachers of Israel. Three years later, Jesus was to be ‘lost’ to His disciples for three days between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, to be ‘rediscovered’ on the Third Day as the indestructible Temple of God’s presence and life. Luke begins the Gospel narrative at the Temple in Jerusalem, he concludes the ‘infancy narratives’ in the Temple in Jerusalem and the Gospel concludes with His Passover in Jerusalem whereby He becomes the Living Temple and only Sacrifice. For Mary and Joseph they ‘lose’ their child and three days later discover their Saviour. He is different – ‘Did you not know I had to be about my Father’s business’ (or ‘in my Father’s House’ – alternative translation) (Luke 2: 49). Like so many parents of teenagers, they did not understand Him and were hurt by his ‘disappearance’. He is growing i awareness of His unique calling and unique relationship with God – though this developing understanding still has some way to go and does not become clear to Him until His baptism in the Jordan river. (Luke 3: 21-22). Both Jesus and His parents are on a journey of understanding, a Journey of Faith. Mary does not understand – her faith is always challenged to go beyond her understanding, as is ours! Perhaps she never fully understood Her Son until Pentecost when the Spirit that leads into all Truth finally came and rested afresh on her as on the infant Church. Yet again, Mary stands among us, struggles with us, the greatest sign of Faith to the Community of Faith, the Church.

[3] ‘They found Him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions’ (Luke 2: 46). I am fascinated that the first thing we hear Jesus doing (as distinct as being done to Him or for Him) is listening and asking questions. He is seeking understanding, He who is the Truth made Flesh. He is a model for the Church – a People who listen … listen to the world around them, seeking to understand our world and not being trapped in the world of religion far from the real world of human learning, philosophy, science and technology. We learn of God and ourselves in conversation with others and with the genius of the world around us. When we stop listening we stop being able to proclaim the Good News. The Papal Scientific Academy, the Vatican Observatory, Fr Teilhard de Chardin etc. Pope Francis ‘Laudato Si’ and the Church’s Social teaching prime examples of a listening Church. Do not be afraid to ask questions, to probe – be dissatisfied  with trite and easy religious answers to complex human problems. Learn form the World because speaks to us there too. Jesus spends nearly 30 years listening, being with,journeying alongside, hidden,before he He spends 3 years preaching and teaching – and during those three year He is still learning who He is and what the breadth of His mission really is. 

[4] ‘I must be about my Father’s affairs’  (Luke 2: 49). Until now others have spoken about Jesus – the angels, Elizabeth, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna, the wise men (in Matthew). Now as He enters upon manhood, He finds His Voice and declares something of who He is. This is the transition passage for Luke, preparing us for His baptism and the beginning of His Ministry. And when that comes in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4: 16) He declares openly His anointing in the Spirit to be Good News to the Poor and bring the Reign of God’s Justice and Love into the world. His audience in the Synagogue, like Mary and Joseph in the Temple, ‘but they did not understand what he meant’. No-one understood Him or His message – His radical love takes us into another realm. Jesus was and will be forever ‘a sign of contradiction’ – challenging our assumptions, our priorities, a sign destined to be rejected (Simeon in Luke 2: 34). Only in the Spirit of Pentecost will we understand Him and begin proclaiming Him. Meanwhile, Mary return to the hiddenness of Nazareth with young Jesus and there continues ponder and treasure these things in her heart (Luke 2: 51), growing ever deeper in faith as she seeks to understand. And Jesus grows in wisdom in the hidden years of listening to His world – the World of the Poor in Nazareth and Galilee. 

AFTERWORD Where do we find our wisdom? Like Mary and Jesus – in the dialogue between our world and the Word of the Father?  Who do we listen to?

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