Happy New Year!
The past few Sundays have brought us face to face with several commemorations related to the family: Christmas, of course, and after that, the Solemnity of Mary and the Feast of the Holy Family. All through this period, the Mass readings have reminded us and refreshed for us many of the duties and responsibilities that we hold as parents.
Among all these readings, one particular favorite of mine is Luke 2: 41-51. We all know the story: Joseph and Mary traveled to Jerusalem with the adolescent Jesus for the Passover Feast, and on their way home to Nazareth, they realized he was not with them. Traveling back in search of him, they found him in the temple, and when they questioned him about what he did, we read about the first quoted words from our Savior: “Do you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
To me, this beautiful, enigmatic narrative points to so much about what it means to be a parent. Let me show you. Spend some time with me and let us, line by line, explore the treasures embedded therein – they are unfathomable, but even in our humble way, we can uncover much.
v41: Every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as was customary.
THE GOOD PARENT MEETS DUTIES TO SOCIETY. Yes, they were poor, but inasmuch as they were capable, Joseph and Mary fulfilled their obligations as good Jews, and this included the annual Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem. What a wonderful witness we present to our children when we are dutiful, whether as Catholics, or as Filipinos, or as spouses to one another!
v42: And when Jesus was twelve years old, he went up with them according to the custom for this Feast.
… MEETS DUTIES TO HIS CHILDREN. It is easy to assume that during the early years in Nazareth, Jesus did not receive any special education. He most likely lived life as any youngster of the time. It was customary for them that at twelve, a boy would begin to receive religious instruction, and perhaps that was why Jesus accompanied his parents that year. As disciples of Christ, our duties as parents go far beyond feeding, clothing, sheltering and educating our children. We are also responsible for apprenticing them for their adulthood. We are also responsible for their spiritual formation.
v43: After the festival was over they returned, but the boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem and neither Joseph nor his mother knew it.
… ACCEPTS THAT THERE WILL BE DIFFICULTIES. Even with the best of intentions and the best of skills, we cannot possibly gain control of everything. Our children make mistakes, meet injury, come across mishaps. They get sick, get hurt, get lost. Try as we might, we cannot possibly shield them from having the world happen to them. It’s all part of the territory of living.
v44: The first day of the journey they thought he was in the company and looked for him among their relatives and friends.
… IS CONCERNED FOR HER CHILD AND SHOWS IT. As many as there are individuals amongst us, there are as many ways of showing our concern. In Joseph’s and Mary’s place, some of us might have been nonchalant while others might have been in a panic right away. The “how”s certainly vary, but what we share in universal fashion is the love and concern we bear toward our offspring.
v45: As they did not find him they went back to Jerusalem searching for him…
… IS WILLING TO BE DISTURBED. However calm Joseph and Mary might have been in the beginning, I am certain their calm developed into worry as they failed to locate their missing son. Yet I am certain too, that they did not point fingers at each other in blame. Along with fear and desperation, anger might have been part of their temptations. Instead, stalwart and faithful, they closed ranks in concerted effort, as we ourselves are called to do in difficult moments.
v46: … and after three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.
… PERSEVERES. Three days! What a reward it must have been to finally lay eyes on the missing Jesus, what a joy! Being a parent entails not just the difficult, but the bright and joyful moments too, when our problems are solved, when our sacrifices are rewarded, when our prayers are answered.
v47: And all the people were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
… RECOGNIZES HIS CHILD’S INDIVIDUALITY. This couldn’t have come as a complete surprise to Jesus’ parents, they who, day after day, encountered him and knew him. Like we know our children: their personalities and characters, their emergent maturity. How wonderful and lovable he must have seemed to them in that moment! Like our children to us!
v48: His parents were very surprised when they saw him and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Don’t you realize that your father and I have been full of sorrow while searching for you?
… CONFRONTS WHEN NECESSARY, BUT CONFRONTS WITH LOVE. And yet, when need be, we must do the difficult. Some things cannot be left alone. Some things are worth rocking the boat for. Joseph and Mary realized that, and they did not shirk the duty to confront.
v49: Then he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Do you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
… RECOGNIZES THE TRUE PARENT: THE LORD. Indeed, it is a humbling moment to learn that we are not the center of our children’s universe. And it is a humbling moment to recognize that they do not really belong to us.
v50: But they did not understand his answer.
… ACKNOWLEDGES THAT SHE DOES NOT HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS. Somehow, modesty goes so well with everything that Joseph and Mary represent: meek and gentle, serene and unassuming. Theirs is a shared character that we will do well to emulate as we parent our children.
v51: Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and he continued to be under their authority. As for his mother, she kept all these things in her heart.
… HOLDS HER CHILD IN HER MIND AS WELL AS HER HEART. Such is the essence of parental love: to behold our children, recognizing them as the very precious gifts they are, realizing that we are so honored by the mandate given to us by the Lord, and striving to the best of our abilities to be – not perfect parents, as only the Father Above is that, but – good enough parents!
These are the tips and guidelines for Good Parenting based on insights I have gained while reflecting on The 5th Joyful Mystery, gleaned from Luke 2: 41-51. I offer them for your reflection as you refresh yourself on the responsibilities of parenting and as basis for your New Year’s Resolutions on how to be better, more loving, and more understanding parents to your children, on how to be good enough parents.