Daily Reflection
March 19th, 1999
Dennis Hamm, S.J.
2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16
Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
Luke 2:41-55

One of the two choices for the Gospel today is the finding of the child Jesus in the temple. Try to imagine Joseph's experience on that occasion. He must have first shared Mary's confidence that the temporarily out-of-sight child Jesus was surely somewhere among his relatives in the entourage as they traveled back to Nazareth, coming home from the Passover festivities up in Jerusalem. When the child was not to be found among them, then of course he shared Mary's anxiety, as they turned back, looking for their adolescent child among the pilgrims strung along the road from Jerusalem, traveling in the opposite direction back to Galilee.

Just when they must have nearly given up hope, they find their boy playing the quiz kid in the midst of the temple scholars! Luke says that both parents were astonished, but it is Mary who speaks: "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been searching for you in sorrow." The next words that silent Joseph hears come from Jesus: "Why did you search for me? Did you not know I had to be in my Father's house?" Luke says simply that they did not grasp what he said to them.

We can imagine ourselves in Joseph's sandals saying something like, "Excuse me? Your father's house? I thought my house was just where we were headed three days ago, up in Nazareth, right where we left it last week."

Of course, we--the savvy readers--know that Jesus' reference is to God the Father and the house refers to this Jewish center of worship in Jerusalem, the temple. But for Joseph this might have been the first clue that Jesus understood himself to be Son of God in a sense that went beyond any other Jewish use of that title (for example, when kings called themselves "son of God").

Or was Jesus referring to being about the business of the house of David? Joseph himself was of the house of David. Which made Jesus, too, a son of David, and therefore a candidate for messiahship.  Joseph knew well the story of David and Nathan's prophecy to David (today's first reading, from the Second Book of Samuel). When David, having finally established Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, wanted to build a proper temple for the Lord, he was told through Nathan that not he but his son would build a house for the Lord's name. The Lord God would be a father to that descendant, and he would be a son to the Lord God. Was Jesus' reference about that? It was enough to send a foster father's head spinning.

And what are we to make of this exchange? Joseph's relationships with his spouse Mary and his foster child Jesus are so unique (and he is so speechless in the Gospel) that we tend to hold him at a distance. But that very uniqueness can be the connection point. For isn't every spousal and filial relationship unique? To be husband and father (no matter how statistically common) is a unique set of relationships every time, full of puzzlements and surprises. Just as Joseph came to know that his life was part of a much larger story, extending through king David back through father Abraham, and found his place in that story by means of trusting faith, we are called to exercise our unique roles as parents and spouses with the same act of faith.

For we too live out our lives in a story we do not fully comprehend. In fact it is the same story as Joseph's. For we who accept Jesus not only as Son of David but also as Son of God, we actually live in the house that this Son of David built, the church ("You are Peter and on this rock . . .").  Within that "house," we can live our unique family roles with a confidence that those very relationships, lived faithfully, are our Father's business.

Daily Readings Texts On Line
University Ministry Home Page
 Collaborative Ministry Home Page
Online Retreat Page