For the Journey

We begin this week by looking at and listening to the events of the early days of Jesus’ life. Shepherds and kings, the poor and the rich, have come to see he who has come to help us see ourselves. The Word has been spoken in the City of David, and that Word is being prepared for the hearing of all, Jew and Gentiles, near and far, rich and poor.

Joseph, who was told in a dream to take Mary as his wife, now in a dream is told to take Mary and their child away to a distant land. We are asked to consider the trust that it took for him to believe in those dreams and the faith that it took to hear them as invitations rather than demands. Journeying, not knowing to where or what for, seems to be an early theme in this historical drama. The shepherds have returned glorifying God; the kings have gone back pondering what they have seen. Mary, Joseph, and this mysterious bundle are left alone to leave for Egypt and to there wait for further instructions, which will come in time and in faith.

We are invited to visit the temple twelve years later, when the holy trinity of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus journey again to Jerusalem. This time they leave without Jesus, and fear seizes the parents. Here, Ignatius asks us to listen and to imagine their feelings. They find Jesus seemingly unconcerned about the feelings of his parents. Jesus has completed the law of being obedient to his parents and now is fulfilling a new law of obedience to his heavenly Father. He had to be about his Father’s business, which will be his business for the rest of his days: speaking and doing the words of God.

We watch carefully the confusion of feelings in the hearts of Mary and Joseph. The exclamation “Why!” changes to the very good question “Why?” Mary will ask this question many times in her life. We assume that she prayed so that her questions resolved into acts of faith and hope even standing at the foot of his cross. The drama seems to drag a little bit after they all return to their home in Nazareth. For the next eighteen years of very valuable time, Jesus does something. Does he study the Scriptures of his Jewish tradition? Does he help Joseph in the carpenter shop? Does he learn, as we all do, about the human ways of loving and hating, of helping and rejecting? We are meant just to watch and ponder, as his mother must have, at the ways of God in dealing with us. It is all a mystery to her and to Jesus as well. He is preparing by being faithful to time and in time learning trust in his heavenly Father.

This week, we let amazement, confusion, and questioning be places from which to watch the beginning of the life of Christ. We pray with our own reactions of questioning and even doubting. As Jesus becomes more real to us, we ourselves become more real in the simplicity and mystery of our own lives. We are beginning to let him get closer to us individually and globally. The Word has been spoken first in the City of David and now for all and everywhere around the globe of God.

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