Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48)

Pope Francis said that as a child, he heard a story of a family with a mother, father, many children
and a grandfather. The grandfather, suffering from Parkinson’s illness, would drop food on the
dinning table, and smear it all over his face when he ate. His son considered it disgusting. Hence,
one day he bought a small table and set it off to the other side of the dining hall so that the
grandfather would eat, make a mess and not disturb the rest of the family. One day, the Pope
said, the grandfather’s son came home and found one of his sons playing with a piece of wood.
“What are you making?” he asked his son. “A table,” the son replied. “Why?” the father asked. “It’s
for you, dad, when you get old like grandpa, I am going to give you this table.” Ever since that day,
the grandpa was given a prominent seat at the dining table and all the help he needed in eating by
his son and daughter-in-law.
I was really touched when I heard this story. Most often in life, there is illness, or financial crisis,
betrayal or death or other kinds of setbacks, which bring heavy burden on us or on our family
members or friends. And when any of these does come, that is when family becomes all the more
significant. Just listening to what Mary said in the gospel reading of today, “Your father and I have
been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48). Jesus ‘got lost’ and the parents were looking
for him with great anxiety. They were in great anxiety because something terrible was thought to
have happened to a member of the family. In that sad moment, the whole family was united in
pain. They would not rest until they had found him. For three days, they were restless. They were
not ready to give up until he was found. Mary and Joseph did not abandon the child Jesus, when
he was lost – “Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
Being family involves compassion. Do you know where the word “compassion” comes from? It
comes from the Latin com, which means “with,” and passio, “to suffer.” “To suffer with” is
compassion. Mary and Joseph found themselves in deep anxiety when they were looking for
Jesus. That is co-suffering. When parents are suffering, the child should suffer with them. When
the children are suffering, the parents get involve. When grandparents or great grandparents are
suffering, they are not abandoned. They are shown love and concern. That is why the Scripture
says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15). This is what
family means. This is what connection means. So many people abandon their loved ones when
they need them most. Most people today hardly call on the phone to check up on their parents or
grandparents. That is why so many aged people today are left behind, suffering from loneliness
and rejection.
As we mark this year’s Holy Family feast, are you going to pick up your phone and call your
parents, grandparents, great grandparents, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren? What
about your child or friend or parents in correction centres because of the crime they committed?
Are we going to forget them because of what they did? Maybe we could visit them and let them
know we still love them no matter what. We cannot afford to leave them behind. “Your father and I
have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

Fr. Charles Chidi Mmaduekwe