Luke’s gospel takes us quickly from the manger in Bethlehem to the Temple in Jerusalem as we learn more about the mystery of this One who has come to dwell among us. Fully human, Jesus must grow, just like us, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. And his parents also learned and grew in their understanding of who Jesus was and how he would impact human history. How comforting for those of us who wonder if we will ever make progress on the spiritual journey. How important to recognize that growth is a process that unfolds over a lifetime.
It can be discouraging when our families or the other communities we belong to are not all that we want or hope for them to be. Conflict, arguments, immature behavior, and competition, just to name a few challenges, can make us feel that we will never become what we envision, and tempt us to give up trying. Parenting can be difficult when we think our kids will never get it, when all we experience is resistance. Sometimes this may be what we experience in our own interior life. Patience is required for anyone’s process of growth, our own included.
Can you imagine Joseph and Mary being patient with the infant Jesus as they taught him how to live a member of their family? It’s natural to imagine that this must have been an extremely happy family. Yet, like every other family, it must have had its ups and downs, its joys and sorrows, its problems and difficulties. There may have been problems about supplying the family’s needs on occasion. Surely someone got sick at one time or another and was a source of anxiety for the rest of the family. God invites us to grow in the midst of pressures and challenges. Our relationship with God, even though it is personal, is meant to be lived out in community and not just individually. Dealing with others may be trying, but others are also sources of encouragement and assistance.
In this weekend’s gospel passage, Joseph and Mary are astounded at what is being said about their child. This is their connection with us. Had they thought themselves special from birth, they would be distant from us. But we see them following the ordinary custom of presenting the child in the Temple, and their offering is the offering of the poor. The people in the temple, Simeon and Anna, share the fruit of their faith. Just as we do, Mary and Joseph needed those messages they received along the way, which helped them to understand who Jesus is.
Through this feast day, God wants us to know that our families and communities can grow toward our potential. With God’s help and by supporting one another, we can become more of a living reflection of Christ’s love and life. Your actions of giving and receiving care will actually make God’s love incarnate in this world.
Take Your Next Step: Think about how you participate as a member of a family or a community, how you both give and receive care. If you are on the receiving end of someone’s care, thank the person who cares for you, and thank God for them. Try to pray about who in your family or community needs your care. Believe that in loving and serving others, you are serving Jesus.