Furthermore, Luke tells us that this was not a private affair. There were so many family members, extended family, involved that they did not know who was with whom as the pilgrimage ended, and thus Jesus was overlooked in the caravan. In our mobile society very rarely do we live near extended families- aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins. Extended families have their pros and cons, but mostly pros. An extended family was responsible for the development of the most complete human being who ever lived.
This was the first time that Jesus would publicly take his own path. Luke develops this story (as does Matthew in his infancy narrative) to foreshadow the Gospel story to follow. Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the midst of scholars asking and answering questions. At the end of his Gospel, Luke has Jesus on the road to Emmaus, asking and answering questions that will refocus the faith of his disciples. In reply to Mary's anguished statement that she and Joseph had been searching for him, Jesus replied why didn't they know where to seek him? This evokes the memory of the angel's question to the women at the tomb, "Why are you seeking the living among the dead?"
The story tells us that Mary and Joseph were grieved about losing him in Jerusalem, only to find him on the third day, the day; decades later those grieved by his death would see his resurrection. In conclusion to his story, Luke would end with these details. Mary and Joseph didn't understand but Mary would continue to ponder it all. Mary's pondering isn't all happening in her head, but Luke tells us that she treasured all these things in her heart and pondered them.
Jesus obediently returned to Nazareth and grew in wisdom, age and grace. For all you teenagers that want to escape from your families just know that the Son of God grew up, as we all do, in a human family. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer.
Luke's conclusion to the infancy narrative tells everything and at the same time explains nothing more than that Jesus' life is indeed a mystery to be pondered. Luke invites us to join with Mary and Joseph to love Jesus, enough to feel desperate when we lose him, to seek him and ponder his words.
Mary and Joseph's witness in the Gospel shows us that faith always involves risk. It indicates that the love of God and family does not preclude confusion and irritation. Love depends on the willingness to continue reaching out to one another and accepting the fact that family is an ongoing process that must be nurtured consistently by all the persons involved.
This feast of the holy family calls us to celebrate our family, not because Jesus, Mary and Joseph are holy card images, but they too were real people with real problems and challenges, and like them we are real-life seekers and finders of the love for which we were created.