Today’s blog post for the Feast of the Holy Family is a reflection on Luke 2:41-52. The reflection is written by Joseanne and Joseph Peregin, leaders of Drachma Parents’ Group, an organization for Catholic parents of LGBT children in the island nation of Malta (a more complete bio of the Peregins can be found at the end of this post).
“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
In today’s Gospel, we are reminded that the Holy Family, too, experienced moments of frustration and anxiety similar to that of many parents these days. Mary and Joseph must have felt let down by their family’s communication breakdown and possibly considered themselves failures as parents.
They were travelling for one full day when they realised Jesus was not with them. And it took them three days to return and find him. It probably took them this long because they had been looking in all the wrong places. But in the end, they found him — in what was probably the least likely place they expected. The parents were stunned to find out their twelve-year-old son was not in some dire situation as they may have imagined: distressed, panicking, or severely sick. Instead, he was found quizzing the teachers in the temple, totally engrossed and fully absorbed in his quest to learn.
Jesus’ choice to stay in Jerusalem, seemingly indifferent to the family’s plan to head back home to Nazareth, may have stirred a relationship power struggle, quite similar to the ones that families experience today. The dynamics in the Holy Family seem very familiar to our own, so what is it that makes this family holy?
They are holy primarily because of the way in which they faced this challenging occasion. It was a moment for them to understand that parents must give up their own expectations and allow necessary space for their children to live out their own roles and fulfil their own life calling. This gospel story is more about Jesus’ role and place in society, and not about their own hopes and plans. Mary and Joseph probably touched the pain parents feel when they think they are being side-lined, made redundant, and feel out of touch with the reality of their children. This was their first leap in parenthood.
Jesus digs the wound even deeper: ‘Why were you looking for me?’ as if to say that if they knew him at all, it was obvious where he would be. Was it not yet clear to them that he should be in his Father’s house? Have they been so blind to all his attempts to talk to them about his life purpose? Although they may have felt worried and hurt over those four or more days travelling, in the end, they knew it was not all about them. It was rather about Jesus and his well-being. This was their second leap in parenthood.
It is similar to the anxiety felt when teenage LGBT sons or daughters ‘come out’ to their parents. Many parents still see this announcement as their child causing them anxiety, rather than their child showing trust — which is a gift. Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus was all about, and sometimes we parents don’t understand what being LGBT is all about. As parents we are sometimes astonished and bewildered. We too would not have seen it coming. We too may have ‘looked everywhere’ except in ‘the proper place’ and this leaves us feeling like failures. But the Holy Family assures us that this is all part of the process — all part of the journey to holiness!
In the silence of their hearts, during that dramatic moment, Mary and Joseph must have recognised they did not have all the answers any more. Their son needed to find things out for himself. The holiness is, therefore, in their humility to backtrack–to go to that place where Jesus was and to meet him there. To acknowledge Jesus’ life calling, perhaps different from theirs.
So during their second attempt to return to Nazareth, they probably stuck closer together and used this crucial time to iron out any of their differences, hurts, and conflicts. They probably shared their own pains and dreams. This second journey must have united this family more significantly. Jesus was obedient and advanced in wisdom, age and favour. He knew he was loved unconditionally and felt supported by his parents. They did not walk ahead or he lag behind. Instead, they walked together aware of their unique purpose and holy path.
This story may uncover the secret to our own families’ journeys to holiness: to accompany one another.
–Joseanne and Joseph Peregin, Drachma Parents’ Group
Joseph & Joseanne Peregin have been married for over 30 years and have two sons and a daughter, all in their 20s. They have been active leaders in the Christian Life Community (CLC) of Malta for over 35 years. CLC is an international lay association inspired by Ignatian spirituality, integrating contemplation and action in a spirit of discernment. They are among the co-founders of the Drachma Parents’ Group (est.2008) which is a support group for parents of LGBT people in Malta. They are members of the newly founded Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, for which Joseanne serves on the steering committee.