An End To Childhood

An End To Childhood

In this beautiful homily for the Feast of the Holy Family, Year C, Father Hanly looks at what is really an end to Jesus’ childhood and helps us understand what is to come next.

Readings for The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Year C

  • First Reading: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 128:1-2, 3, 4-5
  • Second Reading: Colossians 3:12-21
  • Gospel: Luke 2:41-52



This is a very famous reading of the Gospel.

It’s about Jesus, of course, and his stepfather and his mother going with a group of pilgrims to Jerusalem. And on the way back, for some reason or other, Jesus went lost.

You wonder what could that be? I mean, it’s okay to get lost for a few hours – everybody’s been lost – but to be lost for three days without anybody knowing anything about it?

And, of course, our sympathy is very much with the mother and father, even though it’s Jesus the child who we have learned to fall in love with at Christmas.

And now we see the end to that childhood. For that’s what it is for Jesus: it’s an end to childhood. He’s twelve years old. He’s been Bar Mitzvahed. He has become, among his own tribes and people, he has become an adult and must take an adult’s share of the work.

At the same time, to do that, this sudden gesture of going into the temple, his Father’s house… You notice he calls it “my Father’s house.” “Did you not know, my mother, that I must be in my Father’s house.”

He wasn’t talking about geography, he was talking about an assertion that he is now a man and his mission has opened before him.

But his mother and his stepfather were not really buying this. And so what happened was, when they saw him, Mary, especially, was quite angry at him. “How could you do this to us? Three days!”

Now it’s days that they were searching around for him. And Jesus said to her, “I must be in my Father’s house.”

You know the translation for that is, of course, “I must be about my Father’s business.”

And this got to be a little bit of a confrontation.

And that’s the writer Luke, Luke who was St Paul’s favourite. Luke is the only non-Jew that ever had anything put into the Old or New Testament from the Jewish and from the modern Bibles, so he was kind of important.

And this would be his kind of story, for Luke believes that God is walking with us all the time, that God is there and, occasionally, (inaudible) misunderstandings of this, that and the other thing.


“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

Jesus is the Son of God and his mother was saying, “You’re hurting your father’s feelings. Back off. Really he deserves more.”

And Joseph does. Whenever you see him in the Bethlehem scene he is worrying. I don’t know if you’ve noticed how when you look at all the little statuettes, but Joseph is the one who is looking up at the sky. He’s wondering what’s going to happen next.

Because for Mary, Mary was an incredible person, she could see (inaudible), so she was really something special.

And yet the wonderful thing about Mary was she defended her husband over her son. Think of that now. Because sometimes mothers take their son’s side even if it is against the father.

But anyhow, what happens now is a very sudden change. “Why have you done this?”

“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

And neither of them understood. And it says right away, no giving us reason, rhyme or anything.

He went down with them and came to Nazareth,

That’s a terrible place. I mean, he’s supposed to be in a sense the Son of God and here he’s off to Nazareth. He’s been through enough trouble.

and was obedient to them;

Now, there’s the line. We don’t like that word “obedience.” We like our freedom, and we have to have explanations before we do anything. We have to have a long list of why this should not be done to me just to get somebody to do something quite simple.

This is an illusion. In God’s world this stuff is an illusion. It doesn’t matter what we think. It doesn’t matter what we feel. Think of that now. It doesn’t matter what we think and what we feel and what we want. It matters to us.

But in God’s world there’s only one reality. You give of yourself, that’s it.

When you come to go with God, He doesn’t say, “Oh come, nice and happy. I hope you enjoy yourself and fit in here very nicely.”

When you walk with God, He says, “Come, follow me.”

You follow Him and He says, “You are God’s now. You belong to God.” You don’t belong to all this. You belong to God and you must remember that.


Because a man doesn’t die on the cross all alone by himself unless he has called upon some basic understanding of what it means to be a Christian, some basic understanding of what it means to self-sacrifice and love people.

And it’s the only thing that he came for, and it’s the only thing that he would hold onto, and it was the only thing at the end that he would turn and he would say, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

And so this is the beginning of a great struggle for the rest of Jesus’ life. It’s the beginning.

And how does it begin?

Asserting himself, yes. Demanding himself, no. For after the assertion, he stays in that little crummy village with nothing going on, nothing to entertain anyone that would be the Son of God. He stays in that village for thirty years, thirty years! And then he goes out for only three more.

And this is Jesus as we know him.

And it begins, if you notice,

“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand

It doesn’t say they refused – they did not understand. And he understood, but they didn’t.

And so he said to them…

Well, what he said to them we do not know.

He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother

being a very wise lady, she didn’t say, “Thank you, I deserve that,” and say, “Oh I’m glad you came home and you didn’t stay up there with all those important people.” She just

kept all these things in her heart.

that’s all.

And she mulled over it and she thought about it.

And she began to realise that this baby, this one who was now a young man, is something that we don’t know. They didn’t know where he was or what he came from.

And that’s wonderful.

Why is it wonderful?

Because that’s our life. We think it is so easy for all these people (inaudible).

But it had nothing to do with that.

It’s trying to discover the invasion of God to humanity, what it meant. And that’s what is an incredible mystery. A mystery that would put Mary herself through agony after agony after agony, wondering and waiting and watching.

But one thing she had, she believed in the angel and she believed in God and she believed in herself.

So this little simple, hardly even noticing what has happened, was a turning point in Jesus.

He is now the Messiah, the one who will change the world.

He will now go out and look for people to follow him.

And what kind of people?

Well, you know, if it was us, we’d pick out all the smart people, the intelligent ones, the fancy ones, the rich ones.

And he goes out and he finds the poorest of the poor, the poor fishermen.

And what is he going to do?

He is going to change the world. The world will never be the same, and it is never the same.

This is a wonderful day. Why?

Because we celebrate this episode as the end of Jesus’ childhood.

But it’s a great end of his childhood. He loves his mother. He admires and loves his father. He gathers a kind of an aura about him of kindness.

And then I would like you to read now what he expects of them. Let’s see if I can find it here. I read from the letter of St Paul to the Colossians. It was the Second Reading today. Listen carefully. Paul is talking.

Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Merry Christmas!

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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