“Jesus, Mary and Joseph”
Recently I heard a person, exasperated by a daunting task, murmur the expression “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”. It had a ring of familiarity about it; I remember hearing it among the older folks when I was a kid. It was an accepted expression of surprise or frustration within a particular cultural context and existed somewhere between a prayer and an exclamation. Now, I thought about it in terms of the unique family unit that the expression identifies.
I don’t usually think of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a household and with the exception of the ‘Flight into Egypt’ I’m not familiar with an icon of the holy family. Now I’m thinking of this family as a model for family life. It might seem a bit intimidating and seemingly out of reach. After all, Jesus is God as a human being, Mary is without sin and Joseph, well, he had to somehow keep everything together. Still, this family is worth reflecting on and trying to draw some important lessons from.
First of all, I think it’s important to recall that Jesus Christ was a member of a family, like anyone of us, and that his humanness was real. This is something difficult for many of us to get a hold of; that Jesus was a person just the way we are.
Imagine Jesus as a child, a toddler, for example. We have lots of children running around the church. Well Jesus looked and acted like any one of them when he was growing up. He went through the same stages of childhood development as any of our own children. So the child Jesus might not be that out of reach, unless you’re Joseph trying to catch him.
There must have been times, to say the least, where they got a little impatient with one another. Surely there were those times when they rubbed each other the wrong way, just as it happens in our families. So the holy family really isn’t beyond our reach.
Also, consider that they lived in a real world, an often violent world not unlike our own. They experienced what it was to live as refugees, to be homeless, and to suffer as tens of millions of people suffer in our world right now.
So they really did have solidarity with us and with our experience. And we can draw from that and come to know them better as we reflect on their experience as a real family with a real child, in a real world, with real problems and real challenges --- just like our own.
Of course, Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to grow through their own experience and somehow fit into their world and try to change it. All of us, through our baptism, are members of the family of God. Through this sacrament of love, we are brothers and sisters of Jesus. And, because we share this bond with Jesus, we are in a deep and special way brothers and sisters to one another, members of the same family.
And, here at St. George, we think of ourselves as a parish family. The life of Jesus and his family was marked by compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, all those qualities we need in our human family, in our own personal family, and in our parish family.
St. Paul teaches that everything we do should be done with love and that through love everything is united. He shows how the result of this will be the peace of Christ in our hearts, in our homes, in our family life, in our parish, in our community, and in our world. That’s an important point for us to think about. Those qualities that will bring peace to our heart and to our family are the same qualities that can bring peace to our world.
So, if I ever hear the expression ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph’ again, I’ll try and remember the real people it declares and the unity they convey. I may even try and look for the icon.