Sunday, December 27, 2009


The “traditional” message of the Scriptures for Holy Family Sunday usually includes the following thoughts:
wives, submit; children, obey; husbands, love; parents, don’t nag; everyone, forgive

But I would rather offer a meditation on “lost” Jesus and His episode in Jerusalem, a sort of directed fantasy of how it might have been…

He came for Passover this time because he was 12 and probably just celebrated his Bar-Mitzvah, becoming an adult in the community. The commandment for pilgrimage would be on him now. But we know that Passover in Jerusalem was crowded and chaotic. Pilgrims had to remain inside the City during that great night, but because of the crowds the rabbis re-interpreted the boundaries of Jerusalem to include some outlying areas, like the Mount of Olives, just east of the City and across the Kidron Valley. Wouldn’t it be incredible if this visit was Jesus' 1st “overnight” in Gethsemane?!

Jesus was staggered by the beauty of the Temple (read Psalms 121 & 84 to get a feel for the joy of being at the Temple). My own 1st experience at St. Peter’s in Rome, visiting as a student, was probably like that—you stare up at the scale and the glory and say, “O my Lord…” Jesus stays because He cannot get enough of the Temple and needs to be there "just once more"...

He begins asking questions and discussing theology with the priests and doctors of the Law He meets there (and might one of those young priests have been named Caiaphas?):
Who is the ‘Suffering Servant’ of Isaiah 53?
Is he related to the figure(s) of Isaiah 42, 49, 50 & 61? Are they all the same? Are they a person?
David claimed not to taste corruption (Psalm 16), yet died; he’s either wrong & this shouldn’t be Scripture, or is there any third possibility?
Why must blood (Paschal lamb or Yom Kippur) be shed for salvation & forgiveness of sins?

These might have been Jesus’ questions, sitting there and loving His Father’s house so much He didn’t want to leave it (perhaps spending the next nights in the Garden of Gethsemane, as well: a location so close to the Temple, and a place from which one could sit and gaze at the Temple in all its glory, especially in the morning when the rising sun would be blazing on its façade).

It was necessary, He said when found, that He be “in His Father’s house/about His Father’s business.” Why? It’s because, humanly speaking, He fell in love. Remember, if Jesus knew He was the Son of God, He also was to “grow in age, grace and wisdom”… And we grow through the changes that occur when transforming experiences happen to us.

And if Jesus wanted to ask those questions, I have questions of my own that I would like to ask Him:
What’s the point of the teaching about prayer & asking/seeking/knocking?
If all prayer has to begin and end with “Thy will be done,” why bother praying?
If you have overcome the world why is it still so sinful?
Why did you give us your Body & Blood in the Eucharist?
Was the Crucifixion the only way to redeem us?

What questions might you want to ask?

No matter: even without absolute answers, once one falls in love, one can be faithful and obedient. Jesus was; St. Paul asks us all to do the same. In the words of Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons, when his daughter asked him if he had not done as much as God could reasonably want: "Finally, it's not a matter of reason; finally, it's a matter of love." Happy Holy Family Sunday to us all!
Footnote: the illustration is a fresco by Giotto, found in the Arena Chapel in Padua.


  1. The homily for the Feast of the Holy Family was superb! Combining thoughts from natural life, Nardia, Les Mirabiles etc was ingenious! How fortunate we are at Our Savior parish to have a "leader" so gifted!

  2. If I recall correctly, Duns Scotus, a famous Franciscan theologian, answered Fr. Tokarz' question "Was the Crucifixion the only way to redeem us?" by pointing out that even if Adam and Eve had not sinned, Jesus would have come into the world regardless. I would take from this that Jesus coming into the world IS the act of redemption...I tend to see redemption, not as "the crucifixion" (not that Jeus was not crucified) but as God the "Father" sending Jesus to us to teach us how to love one another. Dick Westley, one of my favorite theologians, entitled one of his books "Redemptive Intimacy"...i.e. it is intimacy (love) that redeems. Just my two cents...aidan

  3. I understand Scotus' comment as describing an act of revelation and not necessarily of redemption, presuming no "episode" a la Gen. 3.
    The Crucifixion (AND Resurrection) were not the only possible means of our redemption but rather the chosen means. In my homily for Christmas morning, I asked: "Were you ever in love with someone? If that person were in danger, what would you be willing to do/sacrifice to save that person?" You can see where this is going, theologically: Sacrifice, intimacy and love are all part of the same package.