I’ve always loved this Gospel story. As a kid who would often wander, either deliberately or indeliberately, away from my parents to pursue my own interests, I felt it was an easily relatable trait in child Jesus. It’s also one of the few stories that we get of child Jesus. Just a typical-ish kid finding his way in the world.
I’m not a parent, so I can’t honestly relate to the indescribable fear that Mary and Joseph must have felt at the realization that their child wasn’t in the caravan of friends and family that they had been walking with for a whole day.
I am no longer a child and I am not yet a parent, so my attention focused on the silent and unglorified characters of the caravan and the teachers in the temple. These biblical extras, if you will, though silent, play an important role in this story, especially in light of the other readings which, on their surface, all focus on family.
Healthy, happy, and holy families are a blessing. A blessing in times of trial and in joy. But not all families are healthy. Not all families are whole. Not all loved ones are able to be together.
That is why we are called as a church to be that “caravan” and those “teachers,” not only during the holidays, but year-round.
Mary and Joseph trusted the caravan with the care of their child to nourish him and lead him in the right direction even when their eyes weren’t on him. Those teachers in the temple didn’t know the whole story but they welcomed a young man who was seemingly all alone into a place of safety and engaged him in a spiritual and intellectual way. Both groups provide shelter, safety, company, and community.
We are called to be the caretakers, the caravan, of God’s children—to walk with and care for each other.
The second reading, from Colossians, is a beautiful call which reminds us exactly how to interact with the world. How to be members of the caravan, the temple, and the Church.
Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- In your life, who have been your teachers? Who has been in the caravan?
- How this holiday season can we better care for those who are in need of a caravan?
- How does work for justice play into this role of care?
Lena Chapin is the development director for Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. After graduating from John Carroll University, she spent a year in Immokalee, Florida with the Humility of Mary Volunteer Service. Lena worked for the Ignatian Solidarity Network from 2016-2022.