I was listening to Christmas carols and the song “Mary did you know” started playing and immediately my mind started thinking about today’s gospel and what did Mary know. The question of what she knew, what Jesus knew about his divinity and what Joseph knew is an ongoing debate among theologians. What did Mary and Joseph know about this child they were raising?
I am going to answer that question for you right now – Mary knew, Joseph knew. I can be that direct and firm not because Mary was prepared for her role from the moment of her immaculate conception but because she was filled with the Holy Spirit that day the angel Gabriel stood before her. He spoke to her of her role in God’s plan of salvation and said the Holy Spirit would overshadow her. Joseph wrestled with what to do about Mary’s pregnancy but he was filled with the Holy Spirit as he responded to the angel who came to him in a dream and directed on what to do about Mary.
The question should not be what they knew but how did that knowledge affect their being the mother and father of Jesus. We do not think or talk about those infant years of Jesus but he needed to be cared for as an infant. Jesus needed to be breastfed, to have his diaper changed, to be bathed, to be held and sung to. He woke up during the night and needed care and needed to be comforted. Mary and Joseph did those things. We see in today’s gospel how they were faithful in making sure Jesus was raised in the Jewish faith and how they observed all the Jewish laws of presentation, circumcision and making sure he was instructed in the Torah. As parents who were faithful Jew’s they would have talked to Jesus about the God they worshiped. Jesus was a human and he was raised as a human doing human things learning the faith of his parents as a human. Today’s scripture tells us he grew strong and grew in wisdom and the favor of the Lord was upon him.
This is the normal growth of any child raised by parents who love the Lord and want to pass down their faith to their children. Mary and Joseph response was to raise him to do his chores, to obey them and God, to make sure he learned this lessons on how to read, to write and they discussed the Torah as each Jewish family did each week as they sat down for the Shabbat meal, the day of rest. They would have taken Jesus to all the Jewish festivals like the Sabbath and Feast of Booths.
Yet as normal as he was raised Mary and Joseph knew who he was just as you and I should know who we are. We should know the simple and yet profound truth that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ brought us into the kingdom of God and changed our relationship with God.
If you believe in Jesus as the messiah then you must know God promised to send us his Spirit to change our hearts so we would follow him understanding our destiny as sons and daughters. God’s plan was for Jesus to redeem us so we would never again make the mistake of Adam and Eve by trying to be like God for we would be given the glory of God by his death and resurrection. That salvation plan involved Mary and Joseph as parents of Jesus. That plan had Jesus depending on the Holy Spirit instead of his divinity and die for our sins and restoring our relationship with God as sons and daughters.
Simeon on that day of the presentation knew the Messiah would come in his lifetime. Yet unlike all other Jews who expected a King to come and overthrow the Roman rule the Holy Spirit revealed to him the infant Messiah not yet fulfilling his mission but still present in the child Mary held. Simeon then said “my eyes have seen your salvation which you prepared in sight of all the peoples; a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.”
Mary and Joseph were amazed by the words Simeon spoke about Jesus. This would indicate they did not know who he was for if they did they would not be amazed. The fact they were amazed would make you think they still had not come to grips with the birth of Jesus and with the interaction with the angels and the Holy Spirit. I believe their amazement was not the revelation by Simeon that he was the messiah but that it was being loudly and boldly proclaimed in the temple.
They were raising him in obscurity and as normal as they could raise the child who would save his people. I believe they were trying very hard to allow his own knowledge of who he was to grow as he grew in wisdom and as the Holy Spirit would reveal his power and mission to him as his time came.
Mary may not have come to grips with how all Jesus would do and suffer but she knew. If she did not know why else would she tell the servant to do as he says when the wine ran out at the wedding feast? Woman it is not my time he responded but time or not time she knew his compassionate heart would respond to all people in need. Joseph knew as the cries of the mothers of the children slaughtered by Herod reached his ears as they fled to the safety of Egypt.
But since the scriptures are written for us to understand our relationship with God what does this passage from Luke tell us about ourselves. How much do we know about Jesus and how is our knowledge of Jesus affecting our embracing God’s plan for Jesus to touch our hearts and minds. Do we dare embrace Jesus and allow him to grow in wisdom and grace in our lives? Do we dare acknowledge him as the messiah who died for your sin and my sin? Are we willing to allow the Holy Spirit to come to us and direct our lives so we are drawn into the family of God?
That is where God intends for us to live. It is part of his plan for our salvation for us to be in the Holy Family as sons and daughters sitting at the table with Jesus and listening to him talk to our hearts. It is our destiny just as it was Simeon’s destiny to see the messiah before he died. God wants us to see the messiah before we die so we can live the life he desires for us today.