Well, Lord, I am still pondering on your childhood. This week we have had the feast of the Holy Family and I have been thinking about your life as it must have been at Nazareth.
Earlier generations have contemplated this with devotion, but to us it is of supreme importance because now we know the way in which family relationships determine the growth of personality and the ability to love and be loved.
As a baby your mother was always available — there to pick you up when you needed it, to love you, to talk to you and to smile at you so many times throughout the day. As you began to toddle, she, ever watchful, was there to protect you from the fire or any manner of hurt and so watch over and guide you through each day.
When you learned to toddle she must have constantly guided you as to what and what not to do, picking you up when you fell and kissing it better when you grazed your knee, As you grew more adventurous she watched and encouraged you, letting you find your feet. Did you play at being David, Lord? And did you hide in the hills as he did from the wrath of Saul? Or did you play the shepherd and romp among the sheep and the new-born lambs, delighting in their joy? There is one thing that is certain, Lord — if you were frightened and ran home, you always found' a warm, loving and protecting mother waiting for you.
As you grew older I'm sure you helped St. Joseph when he made a table and ran messages for him to his customers. You will have been taught the Torah — the Five Books of Moses sitting with all the other children on the ground surrounding the Rabbi. Did he teach you. as I learnt as a child. by making you learn passages by heart? And then questioning your understanding of them?
How real the Old Testament stories must have been, Lord, as you grew in the knowledge of your people. By the age of 12 you would have been studying the Sacred Scriptures on your own and asking increasingly difficult questions for the Rabbi to answer.
It was at this time that you were being prepared for your Bar-Mitzvah, the celebration of your coming of age. Lord, I'm sorry for all these teenagers in our Western society. They don't know what it does for a boy to take his place for the first time among the adult men of his village and read aloud a portion of the Law and Prophets.
I know, because 1 too was called up to do this when at the age of 13 I "became a man." It is a great help to a teenager to have his potential maturity publicly acknowledged and to know what is expected of him. I sometimes think that teenagers would he far less mixed up. and so would their parents, if this sort of experience were an accepted part of our culture. Certainly, Lord, it is clear to me that you must have been recently BarMitzvahad at the time when your parents lost you in the Temple. Somehow I don't think most Christians see the point of this story — 1 have
heard sermons where it almost SeeillS as though the preacher would like to explain it away.
But how you must have enjoyed going off on your own for the first time for three days as your teenage mind.began to grapple with new ideas and adolescent idealism! And how well your mother responded to this new situation — in spite of her anxiety — realising her son had adult responsibilities now and must not be overprotected and tied to her apron-strings.
And so she "kept all these things in her heart" — her anxieties, her criticism and her pride in your achievement and fear for the future. And she just accepted you as you were, thus giving you the strength to go on developing to perfect manhood and the fulfilment of your vocation to be our Saviour.
As you know, Lord, it is not easy to share all these thoughts in your Church so I thank you for your kindness in having made this sharing possible.
Dr. David S. Rosenberg