In the Fullness of Time: The Fullness of Family | Joseph Keith Woodard, PhD | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
The incident related in the Gospel of Luke, celebrated as the “Finding in the Temple,” has always been troubling. It’s the one and only glimpse we’re given into the “secret life” of the Holy Family. Earlier, we see baby Jesus with Simeon and Anna, redeemed in the Temple when he is 40 days old. Later, we see Jesus of Nazareth at the start of his public ministry, his baptism in the Jordan in his 30th year. In between, we see only this strange incident in the Temple, when Jesus was 12 years old: our one peek into the so-called “hidden years,” 90 percent of our Saviour’s life, when the Mother, Father, and Child all lived as a family. We’re supposed to learn something from the story, yet it seems so paradoxical.
The story is familiar, related with frustrating brevity in Luke (2:42-52): When Jesus was 12, the Holy Family went up to Jerusalem to observe the Passover. After the feast, while his parents were trudging back to Nazareth with friends and neighbors, unbeknownst to them, their son “stayed behind in Jerusalem.” That evening, after a full day’s journey, Mary and Joseph discovered that their boy wasn’t among their traveling kin, and naturally they panicked. They hurried back to Jerusalem, but only after three days do they find him in the Temple, regaling some rabbis during one of the customary rabbinical seminars in the Temple portico.
When his parents finally found him, “they were amazed.” But with truly holy restraint, his father does not cuff him, and his mother merely asks, “Son, why have you treated us so? Look, your father and I have been searching for you, sorrowing.” To which the Son replied, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be at my Father’s …?” (The Greek is ambiguous: perhaps his Father’s “house,” or more generally, his Father’s “business.”)
They did not understand what he had said. So he went down with them to Nazareth “and was obedient to them.” His mother “kept all these things in her heart.” And Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” And how mysterious is this?