Christmas is a great time to be together with family. In fact, I'm writing this blog from Halifax, where I'm spending a few days with my father, siblings, nieces and nephews. In these days, the Church offers families some important guidance for their lives together by raising up the example of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
This happens particularly on the Feast of the Holy Family, which we celebrated on Sunday. The Gospel for the mass recounts the familiar episode of finding Jesus in the Temple after he had become separated from Mary and Joseph for a few days. Like all Gospel accounts, almost every time this is read a new detail jumps out to my attention. These days I'm struck by Mary's confession of anxiety: "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." (Luke 2: 48) Important to see here is the cause and effect. The anxiety arose for both Mary and Joseph because they had taken their eyes off of Jesus. It was not at all unusual at that time and place for extended family and friends to travel together and, therefore, for parents to rest comfortably in the knowledge that their child was somewhere in the group. This is why his absence was not noted immediately. When they realized, however, that Jesus was not present with them, they were deeply distressed, as any parents would be.
The situation for families today is slightly different insofar as Jesus is never absent from us, but also the same in that we can easily "take our eyes off him". When we do, anxiety can easily set in. Family life is full of challenges, which we need not face unaided. Jesus was the centre of the Holy Family; he wants to be the centre of ours. It is very tempting to focus only upon the problems and thus allow our gaze to be distracted away from him. In doing so the stress worsens. With our eyes fixed on the Lord, though, that is to say, by conscious awareness of his presence in love and by turning all over to him, we find strength and hope.
This begs the question: "Where, in fact, is he to be seen?" Mary and Joseph saw and encountered him in the Temple. We see him in the "temples" of his Word, the sacraments, and the love we show one another. He is present, and want to be both seen and found by us. Look for him and he will allow us to find him. Then, let's not - ever - take our eyes off him.