December 28, 2003
In God’s House,
Doing God’s Work
Merry Christmas everyone. We continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus
and today we celebrate the Holy Family and hear this famous story of
the 12 year old Jesus getting left behind in Jerusalem, and staying
days in the Temple, where he tried to teach the religious officials
(which is always a dangerous and difficult undertaking!) I want to
you on his question to his mother: “Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke
writes that they did not understand what he was talking about, and I think
we probably don’t either. So I thought we could look at three points
about his question: living in relationship to God; being in God’s
house; and growing up spiritually.
The first thing we notice in his question is that Jesus is completely
focused on God and lives his life first and foremost in relationship
to God his Father. That’s what Jesus does throughout his whole
life, from 12 years old to thirty years old when he is in the Garden
of Gethsemani to when he dies on the cross and surrenders himself to
God. He lives completely for God. That is our vocation as well. We
are called to live our lives first and foremost in relationship to
God, to focus our hearts and energies on God, and to place God first
in our lives, so that when we die, we will surrender ourselves to our
Second, we notice that Jesus says he must be in God’s house,
or as the older translations used to say, “to be about God’s
business.” His loyalty and allegiance is to God’s house
and God’s business and God. Jesus will not serve any other house
or do any one else’s business or worship any other false god.
He is loyal to God and God’s work and God’s house. This
is another clue about our vocations. We too must try to be in God’s
house, to be about God’s business, to be loyal to God first and
foremost. But this is hard, because most people in the world are not
loyal to God or God’s house. We have pledged allegiance to America;
we are loyal to our soldiers, to the works of war, to the president
and his work of death. If we are to follow Jesus, we have to renounce
that work and do the work of God, and be loyal only to God’s
house. So we can ask ourselves: how can we be in God’s house,
and do God’s work and be ever more faithful to God? Whose house
do we want to be in? Whose work are we doing? What work does God want
us to do?
Finally, Luke writes that Jesus went back to Nazareth with Mary and
Joseph and grew in grace and wisdom and age until he was ready to be
baptized and proclaim God’s reign and walk the way of the cross,
and so this suggests to me that we too have to grow in grace and wisdom,
that we have to move from a childish faith, the religion of a five
or ten year old, to a mature adult Christian faith, which is very hard.
Jesus had to grow in grace and wisdom and so do we. And the journey
of faith took him to places he never imagined from the desert with
John the Baptist to the sea of Galilee with the fishermen and eventually
to Jerusalem and the Temple and his trial and crucifixion.
I grew up thinking that the journey of faith would get easier as I
grew older, but now I realize that the Gospel is trying to tell us
that the journey of faith gets harder as we grow older because if we’re
really following Jesus, we will be led to the cross. That’s why
so many people live with the same faith they had when they were twelve,
which is not a mature faith, or why people abandon their faith altogether.
But I think the Gospel says we all have to grow up, not just physically
and emotionally, but spiritually as well, which means we have to give
our lives more and more to God, and follow Jesus by doing God’s
work and seeking God’s house and God’s will and God’s
way of love. This means walking through the fog into the unknown to
the cross, to join Jesus’ nonviolent struggle of resistance against
evil and transformation and disarmament of the world. This is a hard
lesson, but if we dare grow up spiritually, we will no longer be just
children, but the mature, beloved sons and daughters of God.
I think this is what we are all trying to do--by saying our prayers,
reading the Gospels, receiving the sacraments, loving one another,
and seeking God’s reign of love and peace on earth. So today
the Gospel invites us to grow up with Jesus, to be about God’s
house and God’s work, to live in relationship with God and to
be loyal to God and to do God’s will no matter what anyone else
says, no matter what the government or the world proclaims, so that
over time, we really feel at home in God’s house and become God’s
beloved sons and daughters.
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