There are two points that struck me in today’s Gospel from Luke. The first is what Jesus was doing when Mary and Joseph found him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers (Lk 2:46-47). Other than his infancy, this is the only other account we have of Jesus in his youth. Jesus was listening to his teachers and asking them questions.
One of the greatest joys that I experience is when I am teaching. There are times, when I actually feel like I step out of my body and I am watching the exchange along with the students. These are times when the students are asking questions, they are listening and engaged, and I believe that in that exchange the Holy Spirit is present.
The second point was Mary’s response to the whole affair. After three days of anxiety trying to find Jesus, Jesus’ response that they ought to have known where he was, that he was about his Father’s business, and their lack of understanding of what Jesus said, Mary did not meet Jesus with a head slap to the back of the head, instead she “kept all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:51). As Mary did with the news of the shepherds at the birth of Jesus, Mary’s response was ponder.
We learn best when we enter into an exchange of dialogue where we listen to each other and ask each other questions. We commit an egregious sin when we stifle questions, inquiry, critical thought, and dialogue and slip into monologue and demagoguery. This is especially true in the realm of religious pursuits when we are talking about transcendental realities. None of us will ever fully comprehend God and if we say we do we are fooling ourselves.
We are wired to wonder from a very young age. If you have been around a three or four year old for any length of time, the question of, “Why?” will come up. Unfortunately, this natural curiosity is often tamped down, because answering questions takes time. Questions can challenge our own beliefs, they also help us to recognize what we know and do not know. It is one thing to think we understand something, and it is another to articulate it.
When we do not understand, when we are challenged, when we are presented with a response that we do not expect or agree with, may we resist the temptation to react and strike out. Instead may we assume the posture of Mary and instead ponder, to keep things in our heart. May we actually listen to the question, may we pray for discernment, may we seek to understand the words of the question, and then honestly answer the question from what we know and be willing to say that we do not have an answer when we do not know. Our part as people of faith is to know our faith tradition and share it the best we are able and then allow the person we are in dialogue with to accept or walk away. As St Peter guides us may we “be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear” (1 Peter 3 15-16).
Photo: As we celebrate Mary’s memorial today, let us call out, “Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!”
Readings for the Mass for June 9, 2018: