Jesus’ Sonship was a controversy in his lifetime, this controversy still lingers on after two millennia have passed

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Sirach 3:2-6,12-14

God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother. My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins —a house raised in justice to you.

Colossians 3:12-21

Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.

Luke 2:41-52

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for 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. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.

Have you ever wondered how well did Mary understand when the angel Gabriel told her that “the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God”(Lk 1:35)? In all those years that followed, her child grew upas normally as other children. She fed, clothed and nurtured him as any mother would do.His identity as the Son of God might have blurred or perhaps faded a bit in her memory. Truly, Jesus’ Sonship was a controversy in his lifetime that eventually led him to the cross andthis controversy began inLuke’s gospel today at the conclusion of Jesus’ childhood narrative.

The sorrow of losing the child Jesusdid not end with him being found in the temple. This poignant moment continued itself in Mary as she “treasured all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:51).A hidden turbulencehad quietly seeped into this little family of Nazareth the moment when Jesus took the name “father” from Joseph and addressed it to God. Though Joseph and Mary knew the extraordinariness of their child, this was still a moment of revelation for them and had totally caught them unprepared. ClearlyJesus’ priorities had changed: from Josephbeing the head of the family and his carpentry the family business to God and the mission that His will entailed.Jesus recognized Joseph as his earthly father, but he was always conscious of his relationship with his heavenly Fatherand this relationship was later affirmed (Mt 13:16, 17:5; Lk 3:22, 9:35; Jn 12:28).

The wisdom of Jesus surpassed what was expected for someone his age and if it was not over, at least on par with that of the religious leaders of his day. Soon their amazement at Jesus’ wisdom would turn to bitter contest two decades later and his Sonship would be challenged. Jesus was always misunderstood by contemporaryreligious and political rulers (cfMk 11:28, Mt 12:24, Jn 2:18; 19:7, Lk 11:15; 22:70), by his disciples (cf Mt 16:22, Mk 8:33, Jn 14:8-9), by his own family (Mk 3:21),by us and by the world today. Two millennia have passed yet this controversy still lingers on. Is he a prophet, a miracle worker, a teacher, a very good man or the Son of God?

Perhaps when reflecting on this episode and on Mary’s sorrow, let us also meditate on the Sonship of Jesus and our “adopted” status through him (cf Rom 8:15, Gal 3:26, Eph 1:5).

Posted: December 27, 2015

May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)

Other Sunday Reflections

The Catholic Church and Catholicity
When the Catholic Church opens her arms to welcome all peoples, she does so not only because of charity, important as it is in Jesus’ teaching, it’s also because of… Continue Reading >
“Abide in me as I abide in you.”
From Jesus the Vine comes the natural outflow of life Continue Reading >
What our eyes cannot see, our heart perceives and understands
The Spirit in us; the same Spirit promised by Jesus and given to us through the sacrament of confirmation, sharpens all our senses, and most importantly our heart, to “taste… Continue Reading >