we shall be like him

In the First Letter of John we hear of the special love bestowed by God the Father upon those who believe in His only Son, Jesus Christ. God calls us his children and as John writes, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”[1]

Jesus, twelve years old, in the Temple

Jesus, twelve years old, in the Temple

Now before I proceed, I would like to invite all those who are twelve years old up to and including those who are thirty-three years of age to please come forward and stand in front of the sanctuary. I promise this won’t take very long.

While we are waiting, let me provide a bit of context for what I am about to say. There is much we could talk about concerning the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph;[2] certainly they are in a very real sense a near perfect model for every family to emulate, especially in discussing those characteristics which ought to be found in every human family: respect, care, kindness, forgiveness, duty, peace, and love. Yet while the Holy Family was nearly perfect, the rest of us frequently find ourselves far from it. All too often we lose our perspective when it comes to our own families and it is for that reason that I have asked for these young people to stand before the rest of us for a few minutes.

Each of us belongs to a community, a family if you will, of believers, disciples of Jesus Christ, members of his body and of his church. But seldom do we recognize or acknowledge what this truly means. For those of you who remain in the pews, outside of those chosen to stand before you, whether under the age of twelve or over the age of thirty-three let us consider for a moment why this particular group has been chosen.

In the Gospel we are told that when Jesus was twelve years old he sat among the learned rabbis in the temple asking questions, listening to their answers, and whenever the rabbis were unable to answer, he provided them with answers, answers that astounded them. Are there any among you who are twelve years old? Please step forward for a minute.

This is Jesus in the temple, teaching those of you sitting in the pews, asking you questions and looking for answers. How would you respond? Why should you, why would you even consider having a serious theological discussion with one so young?

We heard how his parents were astonished when they saw him there in the temple. Theologians and Biblical scholars estimate that Mary was somewhere between thirteen and fifteen when the Angel appeared to her and when Jesus was born. If this is true then Mary would have had to be around twenty-five to twenty-seven when Jesus was twelve. Little is known with any accuracy as to the age of Joseph although we can easily assume him to be at least a few years older, so let’s put Joseph’s age somewhere between twenty-eight and thirty-three? So would those who are between the ages of thirteen and thirty-three years of age please step forward.

These are the parents of Jesus, from the time of his conception thru the following twelve years, who have been looking for their only son for three days with great anxiety. Again, put yourself in their sandals; how would you feel if your twelve year old had been out of your sight for three days and you had no idea where he might be and no way of finding your child (no smart phones, no one with whom to file a missing person’s report, no Amber Alert.)

And how would you react when you found your child calmly sitting among temple leaders? How would you react when you say to your child “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” and the response you receive is “why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?[3] How many of you could have resisted the urge to offend the posterior of your child for such disrespect and obvious disregard for your concerns? Yet once apprised of their anxiety, Jesus went with his parent obediently and “advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”[4]

One final point to be made on our group here: during Jesus’ public ministry, he gathered around him those who would become his friends and allies, his apostles, the twelve who would go on to form his church. Let us briefly consider that those closest to Jesus would have been reasonably close in age. So would those who are standing here who are over twenty-five please step forward?

These are the apostles, those who would ultimately give their lives for their Lord and Savior, those who walked away from their families, their livelihoods, their former ways of life when asked to follow Jesus.

You may all return to your seats now, thank you.

For those of us who are parents, raising children has never been an easy task, at any time or any place. Many times all we can do is pray and trust that our children will grow in wisdom, maturity, and favor with God. All too often we find ourselves asking, “Where did I go wrong?” when our children rebel or refuse to become what we so ardently desire them to become.  Our children grow in stages, from childhood when they adore you, through the teens when they abhor you, and into young adulthood when they are amazed at just how smart you have suddenly become.

At the recent Diocesan Synod, held earlier this month, during a comment period, a young woman, a college student, stood up to speak and said this, “I have heard and read many times over the past few days of how the youth are the future of the church. I stand here before you to tell you that we are not the future of the church; we are the now of the church.” No truer statement could have possibly been made.

Here are a couple of thoughts for us all, young and old to ponder.

First, for all our youth who complain about being forced to go to church, who are quick to state that they cannot relate to the Church or to the Mass, or those who find it all so boring and meaningless, let me offer these few words: Please, turn off your gadgets, stop playing your video games, stop tweeting and texting and facebooking for just a few minutes and take a good long look at your church, get actively and passionately involved, engage yourself, become informed in your faith, and make the church your own. Quit complaining that the church is just filled with a bunch of old people. Find ways to fill it with young people, fill it with all your friends.

Listen, if a twelve year old could teach some old stuck-in-their-ways rabbis something, if a thirty-something could bring salvation to the world, if a dozen twenty or thirty somethings could light an unquenchable fire that swept around the world within a few years with none of that instant communications technology we have today, then what’s stopping you? You are truly the now of Christ’s church, so if you don’t like what you see or don’t see, don’t just go quietly into the night, do something about it, change it, for it is your Church and you are the body of Christ. Please remember that.

Second, for those of us who have lived beyond our youth, your wisdom and counsel are incredibly important and desperately needed, but don’t hang too tightly onto “that’s the way it has always been done.” Listen to the young, answer their questions when you know the answers, honestly admit when you don’t, and accept the fact that sometimes even a twelve year-old may know what you do not. If that is a problem for you, simply think about it the next time you need help with your smart phone, HDTV, or computer.

Third and finally, perhaps the most essential element of the Church is the family, whether we are speaking of the larger faith community as one family or we are speaking of individual families in the smaller sense. Individual families are often called the domestic church because it is in the domestic church where God most closely resides. When the family makes little or no room for God, you can be certain that the devil will quickly find a way to fill the void.

At the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families earlier this year, Pope Francis said, “Holiness is always tied to little gestures. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion. Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life and life to become faith.”

I am especially fond of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who on the subject of families once offered this valuable advice: “Pray together as a family and you will stay together, and you will love each other as God loves.”

For everyone here today, young or old, remember that we are one body, one spirit in Christ, we are one community, and above all else we are one family. All are welcome, and each and every member of our family should know that they will always have a seat at the table of the Lord. Amen.

 


[1] 1 John 3:2.
[2] Reading 1: 1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28, Reading 2: 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24, Gospel: Luke 2:41-52.
[3] Luke 2:48-49.
[4] Luke 2:51-52.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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