FAITH IN FOCUS: WHAT’S A FAMILY FOR?
When the little family of Mary and Joseph brought their baby to the Temple, there were two old-timers who couldn’t believe their eyes: Simeon and Anna. We’re told that Simeon was an elderly man and that Anna was 84 years old. They were regular Temple-goers and they were looking forward to the day when the Lord would send his Messiah, the one who would save Israel, the Jewish people, from oppression. They recognised this in Jesus. Simeon said that at last he was ready to die because he now knew God had kept his promise.
But the child that Simeon and Anna saw was just a baby. The Son of God, yes. The Messiah, yes. But just a baby. He needed a family to grow up in. Families are where we become human, where we can rely on the support of those close to us and we can take our first steps in the lifelong journey of discovery.
At the end of today’s gospel, Luke tells us that ‘the child grew to maturity, was filled with wisdom and God’s favour was with him’. This, of course, means that Jesus had to develop; he didn’t come into the world fully formed. He had to mature like every other human being. And it was in the family at Nazareth that this happened.
Families help us to grow physically, to increase in stature. Responsible parents look after their children by feeding them the right food, making sure they’re not fed on a diet of junk food or snacks which cause obesity and fizzy drinks that rot the teeth. They provide proper clothing, suitable opportunity for exercise, a caring atmosphere etc.
It’s within the family that a child grows in wisdom, in other words, mentally. Families encourage their children to take a healthy interest in learning, rather than simply in being entertained. It’s the parents who are the primary leaders in educating their sons and daughters, encouraging them to ever-new horizons, inculcating searching mind and a thirst for knowledge.
And, of course, it is within the family that a child develops his or her spiritual understanding. Children take their cue from their parents. A family in which God plays a crucial role is one in which children learn that life is about more than having and getting, and that there are values which go beyond the material.
We all have a spiritual dimension to our being, but it needs to be developed in such a way that we begin to realise that we are part of a larger family, the family of God, and that we have duties, responsibilities and benefits that accrue from this. We are capable of having a relationship with God and with his Son who came on earth to show us how to be human, to help us to get the most out of life and live it to the full.