Learning To Grow Up

Holy Family - Christmastide

Sunday within the Octave

Luke 2:41-52

Growing up is never easy for anyone. A happy and stable background helps immeasurably. And at school the understanding and encouragement of teachers is vital. But maturity is not guaranteed by the passing of time. What does it mean to grow up? We can answer that question by observing the maturing process in the life of Jesus.

Growing up means the acceptance of responsibility. Jesus said, “I must be busy with My Father’s affairs.” We have no way of knowing how much He was aware, at the age of 12, of His special mission. It is not clear just when He came to understand that in a very unique sense He was the Son of God but, already, He was in the process of trading His toys for His tools in life. He knew He had a job to do, and He was preparing Himself for it.

That is one of the signs of a boy becoming a man and a girl becoming a woman. To go through life thinking only of your privileges and little of your responsibilities is to remain forever a child. Growing up starts with little things like learning to pick up the toys and put them away; helping with small chores around the house; trying their best at school.

There is a sense of joy and fulfilment as parents see their efforts come to fruition and their children enter the adult world. If you feel that way about your children, surely our Heavenly Father must feel something like that about us? He longs to see His children shouldering some of the responsibilities of being a Catholic in this troubled world.

We are told that Jesus “increased in wisdom”. This is another aspect of growing up and, in His later ministry, Jesus would put a great deal of emphasis on its importance. Wisdom involves spiritual insight, integrity of character, an understanding love of things worth loving, a scale of values that puts first things first. I like to think of wisdom having the eyes of God, seeing everything as He sees them. I once knew a priest I loved and admired, and he told me to pray every day to the Holy Spirit - for the gift of wisdom.

Gaining wisdom is not easy. It requires listening, observing and learning from others. It takes study, thought, searching and prayer. It sometimes involves making mistakes, correcting them and trying again. It is a vital part of growing up and, as Jesus increased in wisdom, so must we.

In growing up we must also develop relationships. The Gospel tells us that Jesus “increased in favour with God and men” as He kept enriching, deepening and expanding His relationship with God and the people around Him. This is something we can never stop doing whatever our age. It is a constant growing up process.

Relationships are absolutely essential. No one can be a whole person without them. Leave God out of your life, and you will remain forever only a small part of the person you were meant to be. Turn your back on people and you are the loser. They need your love and you need to be loved by them.

Holy Spirit, inspire us to be what our Heavenly Father wants us to be, so that every year He finds us growing in wisdom and stature, in favour with Him and those around us.