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Feast Of The Holy Family



Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, and the Gospel passage concerns that well-known incident when Jesus was lost in Jerusalem. Each year Mary and Joseph would visit the temple of Jerusalem, for the feast of the Passover. The Passover was the feast where the Jewish people celebrated their liberation from slavery in Egypt. You all know that famous incident where Moses informed the pharaoh that because of his stubbornness in refusing to let the Jewish people go, the first born of every Egyptian family would die. Moses then commanded the Jewish people to spread some lamb’s blood on the doors of their houses, and later when the angel of death appeared, all houses that were marked with blood were spared, but in all the houses of the Egyptians, the first born child died. That is the reason why they call it the feast of the Passover, because the angel of death passed over the houses that were marked with blood.


When Jesus was 12 years old the Holy Family as usual went to the temple in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, and that was when Jesus got lost. The Bible states his parents were greatly worried, and they searched for him for 3 days. They knew that he was the Eternal God, yet, like all human beings they were frantic with worry, and eventually they found him after 3 days, amidst some scholars in the temple. Although he was a boy of 12 years age he was asking them questions and answering, like any grown-up scholar. When his mother asked him, “why did you do this to us?” He gave his celebrated reply, “why did you search for me? Did you not know I must be busy with my father’s business?” After that Jesus returned with his parents to Jerusalem, and led a normal life until he was 30 years old.

The question arising in our minds, is why did Jesus have to do this? Why did he have to get lost in Jerusalem? The answer is clear. He was indirectly telling his parents that although he was just a normal Jewish child, he was also the Lord and Master of the universe. Also, who were the scholars Jesus spoke to in the temple? The Bible unfortunately does not give us their names, but 20 years later when Jesus became famous, perhaps some of those scholars also became famous men. As you know, among the scribes and Pharisees there were some men who deeply loved and respected Jesus. Two famous Pharisees who greatly defended Jesus were Nicodemus, and Gamaliel, and both of them perhaps had met Jesus for the first time when he was 12 years old.

The Bible gives us some beautiful examples of happy families. A family Jesus loved very much was the family at Bethany. They were a brother and two sisters who lived as a family, namely, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Lazarus was a wealthy merchant dealing with spices and ointments, Martha the older sister was the housekeeper, while Mary the younger sister was the child of the family. Jesus spent many hours with them. On one occasion, when he heard while in Jerusalem that Lazarus was ill, he directly went to Bethany, and when he saw the sorrow of the two sisters, the Bible says he broke down and wept. Later as you know, he raised Lazarus to life.

The old Testament has many instances of family love. We have the beautiful tale of Jacob and Esau. Although Esau had been cheated by his brother Jacob, yet he had no grudge against him, and years later when the brothers met, they fully accepted each other in love. Another beautiful example of family love is the love between Isaac and Ishmael. They were stepbrothers, and although their mothers could not get along with each other, yet when the 2 boys grew up they both became tribal leaders, and they together conducted the funeral of the father Abraham.

The novelist, Richard Bach, once said, “the bond that links a true family is not blood, but respect and joy in each other’s life.” Yet, sad to say, the world today is filled with unhappy families. In some nations, each year over a million children have their lives ruptured because of family divorces, and for the past 27 years, their family income has fallen from 28 percent to 42 percent. When parents divorce, the children are the ones who suffer the most. Today, 70 to 80 percent of the Americans consider their families to be dysfunctional, and over 70% of inmates from prisons come from broken homes.

This is the situation in families today. There is indeed a great deal we need to pray for.


Fr. Cyril Veliath, SJ



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