Holy Family C
Jesus is twelve in this story. The finding of Jesus in the Temple is the only tale we have of Jesus between the infancy narratives and the beginning of his public career. And he is such a twelve year old, isn’t he? When his distraught parents finally find him among the rabbis in the Temple precincts, he tells them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” I think someday an ancient text will be found that actually discovers he said, “Mom and Dad you are embarrassing me. Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” This is not sin as frustrating as it must have been. He is trying to grow into his faith, into that particular relationship he had with his Father.
But he not only sounds like one, Jesus is acting like a twelve year old in the best sense as well. He has questions and he is asking them. I had never thought of that because of how artists have depicted this scene. They usually portray him lecturing, teaching the teachers. But that is not what the text says. It says, Jesus was in the midst of the teachers and he was, “listening to them and asking them questions.” Sure they are astounded by his understanding, but Jesus is clearly there to be filled, not to fill others. He is growing in faith and understanding. If that is Jesus’ goal, it should be ours as well.
Questioning is a good thing. It is how we learn. But we are fearful of questioning faith. It need not mean losing faith. Questioning does not need to lead to doubting and doubting does not equate with denial. Instead, they are the way to knowledge. The trouble is not questioning faith; it is that we are not good at facilitating those questions – in our church, in our culture and in our homes. The goal of our faith formation program is not just to instill knowledge, but to spur discussion for parents are called to be the first teachers in the ways of faith. Our goal is to make holy families. It might not surprise you in my twelve years here that some young people have lost their faith. What really saddens me though is that only one person came to me to talk to me about it. We go to doctors when we are sick, but when we struggle spiritually, we seem to do it all alone.
Yet, when we do insist on sharing our questions and even expressing our doubt beautiful things happen. Speak of God and relationships change. The teachers at St. Kateri’s have told me that something special occurs when it is time for religion. They are all on the same side. They care for each other. The air in the room seems to change. I remember one night last summer when our youth ministry kids were with Lisa and I and spent an hour asking theological questions, usually answering each other. I was in heaven. But what I truly loved was that in growing closer to God, they were growing closer to each other. That is how it goes with God talk.
There is an intimacy in talking and asking about God that is intense. Perhaps it is why we shy away from it. Understanding God will bring us great comfort, but it will also challenge our assumptions and our fears. You might think those fears are what you wish to be rid of, but they act like familiar furniture in our mind. We are used to it. It might cause some back pain but we have grown so familiar with it, that we don’t remember it need not feel like that. But to be reminded that we are loved and strong and beautiful is exactly the cure and the truth we need to share with each other. We need the theological insight to see ourselves as God sees us.
New Year’s begins this week, so why not make a resolution? Let us question and listen and share our faith as Jesus did for that is how we grow. Go deep. If you are stumped we have a great adult faith formation program. (Kris Rooney says she does not have all the answers but some even better questions.) You can email me. Do you know how much I would appreciate an email about God in the midst of all my other emails? Keep asking and listening for that is how we grow closer to God and one another. After all, isn’t that how we fall in love?
Dare to talk of the things of God. Dare to understand yourself from the standpoint of grace. Dare to be a witness to love. Then we can be like the Lord as we grow in wisdom, age and the favor of God.