There is a story of a kindergarten class that was given an assignment to draw a picture. As the students began to work on their pictures, the teacher walked around to observe them. She decided to stop at one little girl’s desk and ask her what she was drawing. The girl replied that she was drawing God. The teacher replied, “Oh honey, nobody really knows what God looks like.” The girl replied, “well they are about to find out when I finish my drawing!”
I wonder, of all the things this kindergartner could have drawn, what inspired her to want to try to draw God? What made her so confident that she could draw the invisible God?
On Christmas we celebrated the birth of Jesus who, born fully human as well as fully divine, became for us the image of the invisible God.
In today’s Gospel (Luke 2:41-52) we discover that He is quickly growing up! Jesus is now twelve years old and the Holy Family as well as the teachers in the temple are beginning to notice something unique about Him.
What inspired Jesus to stay behind in the temple?
In 1964, the Second Vatican Council defined the family as the “domestic Church” (Lumen Gentium, no. 11). It is the place where we first learn who God is and how to prayerfully seek His will for our lives. In Luke 2:41-52 we see the Holy Family as a model of the domestic Church as they together exhibit both obedience and love of God through their long and arduous journey to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of the Passover. To make such a journey would have required tremendous sacrifice and dedication, especially since the Holy Family was a family of modest means.
The Holy Family was obviously a place where there was a deep love of God that set an impressionable example for Jesus. Such an example is what likely enabled Him to mature at a young age. Luke tells us that at the age of 12 the teachers in the temple were asking Him questions and were amazed at his level of understanding and answers (Luke 2:47)!
Yet, we also see in the Gospel that the Holy Family were real people like you and I. Family life is not always easy, and the Holy Family likely had their share of ups and downs as they journeyed together. With the temple incident, they faced a scary moment together as well as confusion.
Additionally, the Gospel also says that they were traveling with extended family (Luke 2:44). Just imagine what it would be like to take a cross-country trip with all your extended family. Imagine all your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins stuffed on a bus for several days. Imagine the little annoyances you would face along the way. Yet also try to imagine the comfort you would find through the support you would likely get in a scary moment, such as noticing one of your children missing.
In this context, the child Jesus likely learned a lot about compassion and forgiveness as well as the importance of having others to rely on in times of need. These are lessons that He would bring into his future ministry.
As Saint Augustine wisely said several centuries ago:
“Friendship begins in the home with the married couple and their children and from there moves on to strangers. But since we all have one father and mother (Adam and Eve) who can be a stranger? Every human being is neighbor to every other human being. Even those you do not know share in your humanity. Is this person known as a friend? Let them stay as a friend. Is this person your enemy? Let them become a friend.”Saint Augustine (Sermon 229D, 1)
It is from the family that we gain our first lessons on how to live the greatest commandment given to us from Jesus Himself: to love God and to love neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). The family can be thought of as “a school of love.”
Yet, people experience family in different ways in our society. Some have two parents with siblings. Others may have one parent. Some were raised in big families, others were only children. Some were raised by grandparents while others have an adopted family. Some may call a group of friends their family while others may call their parish community their family. For some it is a combination of the above. I was raised with two parents and three siblings. However, when I became an Augustinian Friar, my Augustinian brothers became a big part of who I call family.
Whatever family life looks like for you, the Holy Family can be a model for us on how to help one another discover who God is and what His will is for our loves. At the heart of it are characteristics such as love, acceptance, forgiveness, mutual care, and a priority towards the common good of the family, etc. Many of these I initially learned in the family I grew up in and continue to learn through the part of my family I live with now: my Augustinian brothers as we together learn how observe the Rule of Augustine, Augustine’s own synthesis of the Gospel.
Going back to the beginning of this post, I wonder what God looked like in the picture the girl drew? Perhaps it was an image of one of her family members who in some way influenced her understanding of God through their own dedication and love of God.
If you were to draw God on this Feast of the Holy Family, what would God look like?
The Eucharist unites us more closely with God and each other. When we share the Eucharist, we are united more closely with those whom we share God as our foundation. Through the Eucharist, the presence of Christ unites us as a human family.
As we share the Eucharist today, may we pray for the grace to be united in helping one another discover the presence of God in each other.
 Story adapted from Pastoral Care Inc., “Kid Artist,” https://www.pastoralcareinc.com/resources/sermon-helps/jokes-for-sermons/, accessed December 26, 2021.  Diane G. Chen, Luke: A New Covenant Commentary (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017), 47.