St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Epiphany I : Fr Tony Hogg

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 Jesus is growing up. Once an infant, taken in his mother’s arms to the Temple to be presented to the Lord, twelve year-old Jesus now presents himself to the Temple’s religious teachers to engage in a question-and-answer session that astonishes its hearers. Mary and Joseph have assumed that Jesus is travelling back home somewhere amongst their family entourage, after the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. Separated amidst the lively crowd of travellers, it would be easy to assume that their child was with the other parent. It takes a day for Mary and Joseph to realise that Jesus is with neither of them, nor any of their relatives. After a long return journey to Jerusalem, they find Jesus in the Temple on the third day. 
 
Mary’s reaction contains that mixture of relief and reproach familiar to any loving parent just relieved of that deep anxiety that a missing child engenders. She might expect Jesus to be contrite as she expresses her agitation. But he responds with firm composure: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” These are not the words of a rebellious adolescent. After all, Jesus later returns home with his earthly parents to continue living as an obedient son. 
 
But all is not as before. Through this incident, Mary is having to learn a universal lesson of parenthood: that our children ultimately have a vocation before God independent of those who have given them birth. And there is something more, for Jesus is no ordinary Jewish boy approaching the age of his bar mitzvah. His special, unique relationship with God, his heavenly Father, is beginning to unfold before Mary’s eyes. She who once carried the Son of God within her own being, and nursed him as a complete dependant, is finding her own relationship beginning to change from parenthood to servanthood, as Jesus humbly but determinedly acts outside her expectations. She cannot yet understand this movement with her mind, or see where it is taking her. All she can do is hold it in her heart. 
When we welcome Jesus into our own lives, it is all too easy to assume that we take him into all our activities, within church and out, wherever we go and whatever we are doing – just like Mary did with Jesus as a baby or small child. But Christian maturity means learning to let Jesus take us wherever he wills, and work beyond our expectations and assumptions. He does not belong to us. 
We may take for granted that Jesus is with us, blessing our busyness, but then suddenly realise that it seems a while since we have really been in touch with him. In such situations, we need to adopt the response of Mary and Joseph: to seek Jesus again with all our heart, determined to make contact. For us this might mean a commitment to prayer, worship and reading his word: in our passage Jesus is found, clearly visible, in the Temple, the holy place.
 
And when we sense his presence again, we may find ourselves challenged to submit to him more deeply: he may be calling us to serve him in a different arena. We may find we encounter an aspect of Jesus we do not understand, but can only choose by faith to accept, trusting that as we continue to follow him, we will see his ways more clearly. 
 
Jesus is more than our companion and comforter. In the fullness of his stature he is master and Lord of all. So, my dear friends, let us this week in our private prayers, devotions, and our attendance at mass, grow in our faith as we hear that Our Blessed Lord is doing, so that we too may ‘grow in wisdom, and in favour with God and man.’ Joy indeed!
 
Amen
 

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