by Mary Lou Kownacki, osb
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace
The gospel for the feast of the Holy Family reminds me of a short story, “Soul Murder,” by David Manet.
In the story, a man witnesses a mother being cruel to one of her little boys, belittling him in a public place and punishing him further by refusing to let him go to the bathroom. The little boy sits on a bench, puts his head down, just above his knees, presses his hands over his ears and rocks back and forth. When the mother goes to the restroom, the man imagines himself walking up to the little boy, sitting beside him and whispering, “I am your guardian angel. I have been sent to tell you this: You are not bad but good.”
Then the man gives the boy a quarter and tells him that it is magic. Whenever the boy sees or touches it he will magically remember that he is not bad, but good. The man tells him that someday he will lose the coin but that’s part of the plan. When the coin is lost it means that anytime the boy sees any coin he will remember that he is good. Then the man walks away.
Over the years we’ve heard many interpretations about today’s gospel story of the missing youth, Jesus, and the search that follows: the mission and precious wisdom of the young Jesus, the love of parents for their children, the importance of observing religious rituals as family. But mostly this scripture is about seeking lost children. So the feast of the Holy Family relates to children, all children.
Like Mary and Joseph in the gospel, and like the imaginary angel in the story, we have a responsibility to look for children who are lost. We, too, must seek out boys and girls who are in need of some sign of love and hope.
Unfortunately we don’t have to look far these days. We can find lost children in our inner-city playgrounds, soup kitchens, shelters, schools, foster homes, suburban streets, and in our own dining rooms. This week, to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, go in search of a lost child — your own or another’s.
When you find the child, whisper some word of comfort or give them a magic gift that lets the boy or girl know they are good. Every child needs to know that someone cares enough to look for them. In seeking out the lost child, you will understand the feast of the Holy Family. More importantly, you will become the Holy Family.
* This reflection is from Awaiting Christmas: Beauty Ancient, Ever New, Advent Reflections 1997.