Gospel (Cycle C): Luke 2:41-52

A Glimpse of What Can Be

As the New Year approaches, what do you see this coming year? Explain your answer.

"Happy New Year"

These words ring out at this time each year. Words that cause us to take stock of the past. Words that inspire us to look for hope in the future. Words of reflection and anticipation. Words of conservation and of change. Words of the old and the new.

Like last week, Luke presented the tension between the old and the new. Last week, Elizabeth, representing the old, honored the new in Mary. This week, Jesus himself proclaimed his place in God's new order, as he honored the old traditions.

Popular Translation

41 Every year, Joseph and Mary used to travel to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover. 42 When Jesus was twelve years old, they took him to Jerusalem for the festival. 43 After the family celebrated Passover, Joseph and Mary started home. But, the young boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem and his parents didn't realize it. 44 Joseph and Mary thought Jesus tagged along with the travel party. So they looked for him among their family and friends. 45 When they didn't find him, Joseph and Mary returned to Jerusalem to look for him there.

46 Three days later, Joseph and Mary found Jesus in the Temple sitting with some religious teachers. He listened to what they taught and asked them questions. 47 Everyone who heard Jesus was surprised at his bright answers.

48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. "Child, why did you do this to us?" his mother scolded Jesus. "Listen! Your father and I searched for you everywhere. We were worried about you!"

49 "Why did you spend all your time looking for me?" Jesus answered. "Didn't you know I needed to be in my Father's house, doing what my Father wants me to do?" 50 They didn't understand his answer. 51 But his mother thought a lot about everything that happened.

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned home to Nazareth. There, obeying his parents, 52 Jesus grew in wisdom and physical size. He pleased God and the people more and more.

As Luke presented a maturing Jesus, he began to paint the tension between the old (Jewish traditions) and the new (the way of the Nazarene). While Jesus stood firmly within the traditions of Judaism, his words revealed something far greater. God had indeed begun to act in the world.

Literal Translation

41 Every year, HIS parents (used to) travel to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. 42 When HE became twelve years (old), after (Joseph and Mary) went up according to the festival custom 43 and after (Joseph and Mary) finished the days (of celebration), when (Joseph and Mary) were returning, the young boy JESUS remained in Jerusalem and his parents did not know (about the situation). 44 Having supposed HE was among the caravan group, (Joseph and Mary) went a day (on) the road and they were looking for HIM among relatives and acquaintances. 45 Having not found (him), they returned to Jerusalem, seeking HIM.

2:41 "Every year, his parents (used to) travel . . . " The phrase "every year" and the tense of the verb "traveled" indicated a customary action or family tradition.

2:42-43 These two verses comprise one long sentence. The sentence can be divided in the following way:

"When he became twelve years (old) . . . " This clause sets up the action for the sentence. This detail indicated Jesus reached the age of adulthood, when he could exercise his religious rights as a "son of the Law."

"after (Joseph and Mary) went up according to the festival custom and after (Joseph and Mary) finished the days (of celebration)" These two clauses refer to the family tradition of Passover celebration in 2:41

"when (Joseph and Mary) were returning" This verb tense changed the flow of the sentence from traditional habit (the yearly Passover celebration) to the coming crisis (Jesus was missing). While the previous clauses looked back to 2:41, this clause looks forward to the main verbs of the sentence ("Jesus remained in Jerusalem" and "his parents didn't know about it")

2:44 "Having supposed he was among the caravan" this clause referred to Joseph and Mary's lack of knowledge in 2:43.

"they were looking for him among relatives and acquaintances" The tense of the verb meant Joseph and Mary made an ongoing search among family and friends.

2:45 "seeking him" This clause gave the reason for their return to Jerusalem.

Again, Luke used an account in the infancy narrative to bridge from the old to the new, from the people's daily traditions to the realization of God's Son. In the set up of the account, Luke stressed continuity with Jewish tradition within a family. Joseph and Mary traveled with their clan to Jerusalem for Passover. The capital had the one place where the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob definitely dwelt: the Temple. The importance of the city and its Temple gave a focal point to Jewish spirituality. Both realized the fulfillment of God's promise to Father Abraham for a nation and its land. The family tradition of pilgrimage reinforced the Jewish spiritual focus. Joseph and Mary walked, like their Exodus ancestors, to a place that symbolized Judaism's history and aspirations. The pilgrimage had spiritual overtones, but so did its end point.

Luke mixed images of Jesus in the narrative. At first, Luke introduced Jesus as a young man, a "son of the Law" who had all the rights and the obligations of an adult male. As such, Jesus accompanied Joseph and Mary to the festival in Jerusalem. Yet, when Jesus stayed behind, Luke referred to him as a "young boy," a term that had overtones of enslavement. Whom was he enslaved to? The answer would come later in the narrative.

The search for Jesus heightened the tension between the image of the "son of the Law" and the enslaved minor. The Holy Couple sought for Jesus among his clan, where everyone thought his place should be. (Remember that members of his own clan and his townsfolk would later reject Jesus in Luke 4:14-30) The old would define his place within his family. But the new would define the place of Jesus within a new family, with a new Father.

46 It happened (that), after three days, (Joseph and Mary) found (JESUS) in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them, and questioning them. 47 All hearing HIM were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 Having seen him, (Joseph and Mary) were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Child, why did you do (this) to us? Look! Your father and I, feeling hurt, sought you." 49 (JESUS) said to them, "Why (is it) that you looked for ME? Did you not know that it was necessary (for) me to be in the (things) of my Father?" 50 They did not understand the word HE spoke to them. 51 HE went down with them, he went into Nazareth, and he was obedient to them. HIS mother throughly treasured all the (events) in her heart. 52 JESUS progressed in wisdom, (physical) stature, and reputation with God and man.

2:46-47 "in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them, and questioning them." Public teaching was common in the Temple at the time. The flow of the sentence indicated Jesus was a pupil (since he listened first, then inquired) not the teacher. Nonetheless, Luke foreshadowed Jesus' teaching ministry in the Temple with the use of the seated school position (sitting) and the means of learning (discussion in a listening-questioning format). In 2:47, the amazement of everyone there indicated Jesus proved to be the equal of the Temple teachers.

2:49 "in the (things) of my Father" This phrase could be used for place or affairs (or both!). The context of the Temple indicated place ("in my Father's house"). The teaching indicated affairs ("about my Father's business"). Since this phrase foreshadowed Jesus' teaching ministry in the Temple, the ambiguity of the phrase pointed to both meanings.

2:51 "wisdom, (physical) stature, and favor" These three words reveal aspects of Jesus' growth: character, physical size, and social reputation. This verse acted as a bridge between Jesus youth and his adulthood.

Joseph and Mary returned to the place where, according to tradition, the Messiah would be revealed in his glory. This was the second of two narrative accounts in which Luke used the place and the people to emphasize that point. In Luke 2:22-38, the parents presented the child at the Temple. And two prophets proclaimed the Good News that the Messiah had been born.

In this second account, Jesus himself revealed his Messiahship with an enigmatic answer. "Did you not know that it was necessary (for) me to be in the (things) of my Father?" As the note mentioned above, the phrase can refer to place (the Temple) or to affairs (his teaching ministry). In either case, Jesus acted in the role God had given him. While Jesus might have been an enfranchised Jewish male, he, as the only Son of God, was enslaved to the will of his Father. Jesus did not really belong to the clan from Nazareth. He belonged to his true Father. Jesus' place was in the Father's house (i.e., building and family). Jesus' mission was to teach the people the way back to the Father. He amazed the teachers just as he would amaze the people along his mission road. But Joseph and Mary did not understand his reasoning.

The tension between the parents and the child began to fulfill the prophecy Simeon made to Mary and foreshadowed Jesus' death and resurrection. The search caused Mary pain and anxiety (one of the swords that pierced her heart). The climax of the story occurred three days after the celebration of Passover (a foreshadowing of the Resurrection).

Despite the confrontation, Jesus grew in honor (wisdom, size, and reputation). Jesus was a faithful Jew as he honored his parents and obeyed the Fourth Commandment. He existed within the old, the Jewish tradition. But all signs pointed to the new. He was the Messiah. And he would reveal God acting in a new way, with a new people.

Catechism Theme: The Mysteries of Jesus' Hidden Life (CCC 531-534)

The hallmark of Jesus' life before his baptism was silence. He lived an ordinary life, doing what ordinary people did at the time. He was a Jew, obedient to his faith, his family, and his profession. In that way, Jesus lived as we live. The silence of his early years stressed his solidarity with our human condition. But that silence also sowed the seeds of his ministry, his obedience to the Father.

The finding of Jesus in the Temple is the only break to that silence. As we saw above, that narrative looked to that ordinary life, but also looked forward to an extraordinary ministry.

How has God broken through the daily routine of your life to reveal himself? How has he proclaimed himself Lord?

"Happy New Year!"

This is a time to set aside daily routine and take a glimpse of what can be. Jesus gave his mother and foster father such a glimpse. The vision may have jolted the couple, but it pointed to what would be. We, too, need a time to seek God's will, to take a peek at the future. What we see may jolt us, too. But, that vision will lead to joy and to hope.

May God bless us all this coming year!

Take a few moments to pray for the coming year. What requests do you have this year? Write down all your thoughts and put them away. Review them next year at this time. You will be surprised what God has in store.