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Pope Francis Speaks of the ‘Astonishment’ and ‘Anxiety’ of the Holy Family

‘Let us pray for all the families of the world, especially those in which, for different reasons, peace and harmony are lacking.’

Pope Francis on December 30, 2018, spoke of two elements that accompanied Mary and Joseph as parents of Jesus: astonishment and anxiety.

His remarks came before praying the noonday Angelus with a crowd estimated at 50,000 in St. Peter’s Square on the Feast of the Holy Family. He called on the faithful to pray for families throughout the world, especially those who lack peace and harmony.

The Holy Father cited the Gospel of the day from the second chapter of Luke. The Holy Family has gone to Jerusalem for Passover, but on the return trip to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph can’t find Jesus.

“After three days of searching and of fear, they found Him in the Temple, seated among the Doctors, intent on discussing with them. At the sight of the Son, Mary and Joseph ‘were astonished”'(v. 48) and his Mother expressed their apprehension, saying: ‘Your father and I have been looking for you anxiously’ (Ibid.). Astonishment — they ‘were astonished’ — and anxiety – ‘anxiously, your father and I’ —  are the two elements on which I would like to call your attention: astonishment and anxiety.

The Pope explained that Mary and Joseph, at home with Jesus in Nazareth, constantly experienced astonishment in the face of the gradual manifestation of the Son of God. The experienced daily what the scholars in the temple experienced when talking with 12-year-old Jesus.

“To be astonished and to marvel is the opposite of taking everything for granted; it’s the opposite of interpreting the reality that surrounds us, and the events of history, only according to our criteria,” Francis said. “And a person who does this doesn’t know what marvel is, what astonishment is. To be astonished is to open oneself to others, to understand others’ reasons: this attitude is important to heal compromised relations between people, and it’s also indispensable to heal the open wounds in the realm of the family.”

The Holy Father then turned to the element of anxiety. Mary and Joseph felt anxiety when they couldn’t find Jesus. And it must have been part of their lives as they centered their lives on his care and protection.

“That anxiety they felt during the three days that Jesus was lost, should also be our anxiety when we are far from Him when we are far from Jesus,” Francis insisted. “We should feel anxious when we forget Jesus for more than three days, without praying, without reading the Gospel, without feeling the need of His presence and of His consoling friendship.

“And often days pass without my remembering Jesus, but this is bad, this is very bad. We should feel anxiety when these things happen. Mary and Joseph looked for Him and found Him in the Temple while He was teaching. We too, especially in the house of God, can encounter the divine Teacher and receive His message of salvation. In the Eucharistic celebration, we have a living experience of Christ. He speaks to us, He offers us His Word, He illumines us, He illumines our path; He gives us his Body in the Eucharist from which we draw vigor to face the difficulties of every day.”

The Holy Father’s Full Commentary

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