July 24, 2021 - Pastor Message09/29/2021
THE YEAR OF ST. JOSEPH INLAWS (cont.)
“Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to the festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him” (Luke 2:41-45).
Continuing our reflection on inlaws during this Year of St. Joseph, we look to Joseph this week as an example of how to avoid the tendency that can sometimes happen of viewing inlaws as threats. This can happen on the part of parents who view their child’s spouse as a threat to the way they raised their child and the values and traditions they tried to impart to him or her. It can happen on the part of spouses who view inlaws as a threat to their hopes to build their own family with their own values and traditions. St. Joseph reminds us that inlaws are not threats but partners in the mission of the Gospel.
We don’t find much in the gospels about Joseph’s interactions with his inlaws, Joachim and Anne. In fact, Joachim and Anne are never mentioned at all in the gospels. Pretty much the only direct reference would be the account above from Luke in which Joseph and Mary take the boy Jesus to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. On the return trip, when they can’t find Jesus, they begin their search for him by looking among their relatives. In ancient Palestine, extended families were much more tightly knit than they are today. Generations of a family lived in the same town or village, even the same house. It is most likely that Joachim and Anne would have been part of the same caravan as Mary and Joseph, would have had an active role in raising Jesus, and would most likely have been among the relatives to whom Mary and Joseph inquired about Jesus on the way back from Jerusalem. Other than that short episode, we know very little about Joseph’s relationship with his inlaws. We can infer much about their relationship with Joseph by his interactions with Mary, their daughter and his wife, though. Joseph wed Mary because he was called to that vocation by God, even when she was pregnant out of wedlock. The fact that Joseph knew of Mary’s pregnancy prior to his encounter with the angel tells us that her pregnancy was not a secret, and it is impossible to think that her parents did not also know about it. Their shared knowledge of Mary’s conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit no doubt bound them even more closely together as an extended family, not just by blood or legal relationship but by their common vocation. By answering his vocation to assist Mary in hers, Joseph married into her family and vice versa, which means being a part of her family was also part of his vocation and welcoming him into their family was a part of their vocation. Far from perceiving each other as a threat, they relied on one another to carry out the awesome task God entrusted to them of raising his Son and Savior of the world.
They also understood that they could not carry out their shared vocation by rigidly clinging to the way things were before God called them to come together as a family. They had to be open to change, which began shortly after Jesus was born and the Holy Family were forced to flee to Egypt to escape King Herod’s murderous wrath. I’m sure Joachim and Anne’s hearts were broken when Joseph and Mary took their new grandson and moved halfaworld away, but I am equally sure that they supported the Holy Family in that decision, knowing that it too was part of their vocation. I’m also sure that Mary struggled with leaving her parents and extended family behind, but she had faith that all would work out according to God’s gracious will if they followed his promptings. And so it did. Thanks to their mutual support and openness to change as an extended family according to God’s will, Jesus grew up strong and faithful to the Father’s will too, all the way to the cross, the resurrection, and to our redemption. May we learn from their example of living out their vocation as inlaws and strive to do the same, following God’s will in our families today.
Fr. Marc Stockton