Monday, December 28, 2009

You Can't Take it with You (2009-12-27, Holy Family)

This is my homily for 27 December 2009, Feast of the Holy Family. Feel free to respond with comments. To view the readings, go to and click “December 27” in the calendar.

[__01.] You can’t take it with you.

“You can’t take it with you” is the old saying that advises us to enjoy life as it is. Also –

** to give generously,
** to donate to a charitable cause or to someone in need.

This saying reminds us that we cannot bring our material goods with us when we die. Only our souls are immortal.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

[__02.] “You can’t take it with you” is also something we might tell ourselves before we travel. So, this journey is not the one-way trip to the cemetery or to eternal life. Rather, this is, simply, the round-trip, from, say:

** the U.S. to Europe
** West Orange to Long Beach Island
** Or – in today’s Gospel – Nazareth to Jerusalem and back again.

These travels require suitcases which need to be simplified and overnight bags to be organized because you cannot take it *all* with you.

So, we simplify and organize to carry what is most important. Also, we simplify and organize so that we don’t lose anything.

Where will I put my keys – passport – money - so that I can get there and back again safely?

I don’t want to lose anything, especially something that would prevent me from getting back home.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

[__03.] Well, in the Gospel today, Joseph and Mary are almost home. Apparently, everything is going smoothly. No speeding tickets, no lost luggage. But, then, each one turns to the other and says:

“I thought he was with you”

“I thought you had him!”

Their son Jesus cannot be found.

As many of you know, this would produce great anxiety. Losing track of a child is different than misplacing your car keys. You lose a part of yourself.

Why? How did this happen?

The episode could be a cautionary tale about priorities. No, you can’t take it all with you. And, you’d better keep an eye on your children. Even Joseph and Mary were distracted, after all.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

[__04.] This is certainly true. But, then again, maybe it was bound to happen, bound to happen sometime.

I’m suggesting that we *not* blame the parents.

Biblical scholars point out that, on such a ancient road trip, there would have been two caravans:

** (one), the caravan group of women and children;
** (two), the caravan group of men.

And, Jesus was 12 years old. He is becoming a young man, crossing over from childhood to adulthood.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

[__05.] On the road, the young boy Jesus is a little too old for the “women and children” section and a little to young for the “men” section. He is caught between.

Off the road where he has walked himself back to Jerusalem, he also exists in between.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

[__06.] So, Jesus at the Temple is a fulfillment of this prophecy and a further prophecy of what is to come.

Recall that later in the Gospel, the adult Jesus is not passively arrested and made to suffer. Rather, he lays down his life and takes it up again.

Today, the child Jesus did not become lost. He was not left behind, left “home alone.”

Rather, the young Jesus himself actively quits the caravan and loses himself in the Temple.

This will surprise his parents who have seen his true home in Nazareth.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

[__07.] Going away on vacation, we try to simplify, to organize and even miniaturize what we really need.

We say: “oh, maybe if I get a Blackberry then, I don’t have to take my laptop.”

This is what we do; we break things down into ever smaller pieces, fitting them into ever smaller spaces. Then, for example, on the airplane, maybe we can take everything as carry-on baggage and bypass the luggage carousel.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

[__08.] Yet, I think it’s also true that no matter how hard we work to simplify, organize, miniaturize, it all comes out in the end.

Mary and Joseph may lament – for a while – what (and who) they have not been able to keep under wraps.

The parents of the Holy Family may ask themselves, “should this 12-year-old boy Messiah be grounded?”

But there is no hiding or keeping this wrapped up.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

[__09.] Today, his future mission is revealed, that Jesus will quit the world of material things again and give himself up to the leaders of the Temple, give himself up for our sins.

Let us recall an earlier journey of the Holy Family to the Temple with Jesus.

When the baby Jesus is presented at the Temple, Joseph and Mary are met by the prophet Simeon and prophetess Anna.

Simeon says: “behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and [this child is destined] to be a sign that will be contradicted. ” (Luke 2:34)

Jesus will be “contradicted.” This does not mean public controversy or a press conference. Rather, it means his passion and

Simeon further predicts, saying to Mary that you too will suffer: “and you yourself a sword shall pierce.” (Luke 2 : 34)

And, in this way, we also refer to Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows for her pain during Jesus’s crucifixion and death.

In this way, Jesus will save us – his people – from our sins.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

[__10.] Isn’t this what always happens on road trips and family vacations?

That is, we think we go on them to get away from it all. To relax. To perfect ourselves. To go the spa, maybe? To avoid the stress and anxiety that we have at home.

But, on this road trip, the real truth comes out.

On this road trip, we cannot pack everything away perfectly.

On this road trip, the Holy Family gives an example of surrender to God’s will and to the future he has in store for us.

On this feast of the Holy Family, let us pray not that our suitcases are simplified or our overnight bags organized. This would focus on material things.

Also, let us pray that we will not be paralyzed with fear about the ways in which we get lost. Indeed, we also called to lose ourselves to each other and for each other.

Indeed, “you can’t take it all with you.” However, we remember that even in Jesus’s departure and death, he lives for us through our prayer, worship and sacrifice for each other.

You can’t take it with you. But, you can take him with you. [__END__]

No comments:

Post a Comment