Raising Messiah

by Ken Briggs

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No doubt many of you have already dropped this proposal into the parish suggestion box: how about adding a feast day for the Holy Parents. There's no better time to think about it than during this manger remembrance season. I think you'll agree that a Holy Parents Recognition Day is long overdue.

One reason for the blind spot is that we have no record of that family life from barely two weeks into the baby's life until he hits 30, a three decade gap in which Mom and Dad presumably had admirable roles. There is that cameo appearance of Jesus in the temple at around 12, a kind of preview or coming attractions, but that's it.

Bringing up the Prince of Peace must have had its own challenges. Though everyone is prone to think it was a walk in the park, or more accurately the desert, it involved caring for surely the most atypical "special needs" child in history. Imagine trying to figure out what your Incarnation toddler actually needs? Or when he becomes the parent and you the child.

As a skilled tradesman in a poor town, Joseph must have worked hard to scratch out a living. It's hard to imagine there was much top-notch wood to make tables and chairs. Yet it was honest, proud labor. Would he recommend that his sort-of son follow him into the trade, given that he already had a knack for turning water into grape juice? Was wine in that future?

Mary would probably had problems with celebrity. Wherever she went, she was instantly recognized by the glow around her head, her shy downcast eyes and her radiant raiment. How to keep this uninvited attention from tempting the future Good Shepherd into thinking she actually liked it and hoped he would imitate it?

It seems safe to assume that Mary and Joseph (remember, their last name wasn't "Christ") believed that all of their offspring should be treated equally? What a burden, therefore, when one of them is the latent Savior of the World? How do you keep your favoritism in check?

For all the difficulties of a hard-scrabble life in those days when the irksome Romans weren't nosing into all sorts of family affairs, at least they didn't have to cope with the child rearing snares of the 21st century. They are similar to the three cons which Satan used on the grown-up Jesus in the wilderness at the start of his ministry (as you'll recall, he passed with flying colors)

A current lure is to pressure the kids, be they saints or sinners, into a full time regimen of sports, music lessons, yoga-for-youngsters, summer "character building" boot camps, Advance Placement, church youth groups, and more sports. Jesus had his chores, I'm sure, and as a Without Sin child was more than helpful around the house, in dad's shop and around town but he wasn't in a forced march. He had what it takes to resist the lure of sports religion but it might have been tough, especially inasmuch as he had the makings of a terrific soccer goalie ("behold I stand at the door ....")

Neither was he exposed to the all-consuming demands of iPads, smart phones, texting and Internet diversions that might have rendered him unable to speak with other people spontaneously and face to face--at least for a while.

Third, college admissions, the purgatory of young people today, rife with outsized promises and crushing defeat. Jesus' record would certainly have been unblemished which would have had elite colleges banging down Mary and Joseph's door, offering him fat scholarships to grace their campuses with his presence. My guess is that the Lamb of God would have turned them all down for their own good and his. He would have understood that they knew not what they did by inviting his harsh critique of their craving for status and money into their midst though they'd overlooked things like his grasp of truth in their rush to capture him solely on the basis of his SATs. Galilee Community College would have done just fine--less pretense, better mix.

So hats off to the Holy Couple for a job well done. Whatever a child's "potential," it's just that if it isn't curated and nurtured by those loving companions. I realize that the church calendar is booked solid, but since change seems in the wind, how about a day for those who in their own way made it all possible. 



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