Monday, January 13, 2014


Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the first Sunday after Epiphany 2014


Ben has been found

wandering around Bluewater

having run off from his parents.


He is twelve years old,

an only child

and from Inverness in Scotland.


He last saw his parents 3 hours ago

when he wandered off to look at

what was happening in Winter Wonderland

and they have clearly not noticed

that he’s gone.


He has been given no mobile phone,

no money

and no idea where his parents are.


Doesn’t this seem like

 a case of neglect to you?


Should we inform Social Services?



 For those of us who seek

to promote the notion of the functional family,

the loss and discovery of Our Lord in the temple

must come as a bit of an embarrassment.


We are presented with

Our Lord deliberately staying away

from His parents

in order to do what He wants to do.


Even then it takes Mary and Joseph

a day to realise that He is not with them.


Just think of it.

We Christians hold

Our Lady and St Joseph up

as model parents,

and we make the categorical claim

that Our Lord is sinless.

Does this running away

 mean that the Holy Family are just as,

 if not more dysfunctional

than the average family in Medway?


Does this mean that Our Lord Jesus

is not as sinless as one might think?



Twelve year-olds

are actually quite interesting creatures.


A twelve year-old

may have completed their first year at secondary school,

so they are much more confident

about what’s going on

but they still have a sense

of the inquisitive.


They want to know things

and do indeed take the trouble to find out.


They have not yet had that rush of hormones

that makes the fourteen year-old

find thinking hard and communication more so.


Twelve year-olds are at their most articulate

and communicative.


They will certainly want to know

where they have come from,

giving rise to some potentially difficult questions

for Mum and Dad to answer.


Our Lord at the age of twelve

is no different from any other twelve year-old.




We simply do not know when Our Lord

 becomes aware that He is the Son of God

or how He knows it,


We do know that He knows He is the Son of God

 by the age of twelve.


We must remember that Epiphany

means “Revelation” or “Manifesting”

and the whole life of Christ is spent revealing

the truth about God and His love for us

in word and in deed.


That does not mean that

God’s revelation of Himself to us

 is going to be complete.


There will always be things

that we don’t know about Our Lord.


What we do know is that

Jesus leaves Mary and Joseph

to go to the Temple to find His Father.


 He goes to His Father’s house.






Again, we do not have the full reason,

but we do find Jesus sitting with

the thinkers and teachers and academics

and both asking and answering

some deep theological questions.


It is clearly imperative for Him

to “be about His Father’s business”

whatever that business is.


It is business that clearly goes

above normal family relationships

and yet it is business which

Our Lady and St Joseph

simply do not understand,

and neither do we – not fully.


There are times when the family life of Jesus

does not answer our questions

about how to be a good family

as carefully as we like.


Many people try to live their lives by WWJD

 – “what would Jesus do?”


If we go strictly by this,

 the example of Jesus here for twelve year olds

seems to be to run off from your parents

 to the nearest Church

at the next available opportunity!

When your child is the Son of God

and He seeks to be in the place

where His Father’s presence is closest to us,

this is perfectly reasonable.


Surely it is a child’s right to see his father!



 if your child is not the Son of God,

running off anywhere without telling anyone

is just not the right thing to do.


The family life of Our Lord Jesus

is not meant to be an absolute model

for the good family.


 So what does make a family a good family?




You know the answer to that already!


It’s Love, that wonderful unconditional love!


Any family that

truly and unconditionally loves

each of its members

 is a good family.



This must involve God somewhere

because God is Love.


Our Lord may run off to the Temple

without telling His family,

but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t love them.


It means that in order to love His family,

He must find His Father.


Love is His Father’s business,
            though we cannot fathom
                      the depths of that Love.


St John tells us,

“Beloved, let us love one another:

for love is of God;

and every one that loveth is born of God,

and knoweth God.


He that loveth not knoweth not God;

for God is love.


In this was manifested the love of God toward us,

because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world,

 that we might live through Him.


Herein is love,

not that we loved God,

but that He loved us,

and sent His Son to be

the propitiation for our sins.”

We might not understand that love fully,

but we can certainly trust Our Lord

when he says “seek and ye shall find”.




There are often times when it seems

 Jesus has run off and left us, His adopted family,

 without any reason.


Clearly, like Our Lady and St Joseph,

 we need to seek Him

and to help others when they are seeking Him.


How can we make sure that our Church

is going to be the place - a good family!

- in which people can find Him?


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