When Mary and Joseph found the child Jesus in the Temple, He said to them, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand.
Mary and Joseph knew something, of course. They both had received visits from an angel twelve years earlier. But we can hardly fault them for not understanding completely. They did not have ‘the typical child’ to raise. They had God incarnate for a son. Human in everything, except sin. But also possessed of the infinite depth of the eternal Word.
To Whom does the only-begotten Son of God belong? To no one but the Father, of course. Who can “house” the Creator? Where is His “home?” The only true home the infinite Son can have is the infinite bosom of the infinite Father.
But: “He went down with them to Nazareth, and was obedient to them,” like any normal good son. He Who made the world to be our home lived in a humble family home of His own, in a small town.
Let’s imagine a Nazarene townie giving a newcomer a tour: “That house? That belongs to so-and-so the weaver. That one? Oh, that’s the carpenter Joseph’s house, where the Son of God grew up.”
I guess by now everyone has seen the new Star Wars movie. If not, don’t worry. I won’t give much away. It’s just that one thing really struck me, about how the heroine grew up.
In the original Star Wars, back in the 1970’s, the hero Luke Skywalker lived on remote desert planet. He was an orphan, apparently. But he lived in a cozy space-age farmhouse with uncle Owen and aunt Beru. In other words, Luke had a home–where he had grown up, with a man and wife raising him.
At the beginning of the new Star Wars, the new heroine, named Rey, also lives on a remote desert planet. But she lives alone, in an old broken-down imperial tank. No family at all.
Is this difference between the movie of the 1970’s and the movie of today a “sign of the times?” Forty years ago, we Americans took for granted: a child needs a home, with a family, a mom and dad. Now? We don’t know. We don’t know what a child needs. We have managed to get ourselves thoroughly confused.
Instead of bemoaning the collateral damage of the Age of Divorce, though, let’s do this:
1. Let’s communicate what the prophets of the Bible say. After all, Israel herself, the chosen tribe, had fallen into the same homeless state as the young Rey on the planet Jakku. Friendless and bereft, an apparent orphan, marking days in misery, struggling to survive alone. Israel had become an exile, far from the Holy Land, her very identity as a people threatened. We worry about African lions going extinct. But in the sixth century BC, The People of God almost went extinct. The heritage of Abraham and Moses almost forgotten.
Therefore, I don’t think it’s a stretcher for us to say this: The words the prophets addressed to the exiles of 2500 years ago are the very words God addresses now to the lonely children of this Age of Divorce and Single Parenthood.
You have a father, child! You have a birthright, and a name. Israel is no orphan! God says: You are mine. My house is yours.
2. Our second task is to build real homes ourselves. To make the parish a true home for all. And to make our own particular dwellings as much like the home of the Holy Family as we can.
What does the world need in AD 2016? Not macho men–silly boys trying to masquerade as grownups. No, the world needs chaste and strong husbands and fathers like St. Joseph. The world does not need feminists–unhappy girls trying to act like men. No, the world needs chaste and strong mothers and wives, like our Lady. Our Lady and St. Joseph did not believe in divorce, so neither do we. And, for God’s sake, the world does not need “gay-rights” advocacy, in vitro fertilization and test-tube babies with absent anonymous fathers. The world needs champions who will defend the rights of children.
We were lost, homeless, orphaned before Christ came. It’s not as if family life according to the model of the Holy Family constricts us in some stale old convention. To the contrary: divorce and broken families have been around longer than the hills. There were plenty of divorces and broken families during the Babylonian captivity. In the Holy Family of Nazareth, God has given us the genuinely new thing. He has given us the kind of home where we can hope for a better future.
AD 2016 sits before us like a sheet of blank notebook paper. Let’s write JMJ at the top. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. We don’t have to live as hermit orphans, like poor Rey in “The Force Awakens.” We have a home. In the bosom of the Father. With Mary and Joseph. With Christ.