The feast of SS Joachim and Anne, names traditionally assigned to the parents of Mary, mother of our Lord, reminds us that Jesus was a member of a family. His looks, his traits, his temperament, all were influenced by his genetic inheritance and the experience of belonging to that particular Jewish family. As with all families, his inheritance must have been a mixture of good and bad.

That means that Jesus was not necessarily ‘perfect’ by human standards: he was not necessarily the most handsome man who ever lived (could we even agree on what constitutes handsome?), the most intelligent, the most eloquent, the most gifted. His smile might have been crooked, his nose bent; he might have had difficulty learning Hebrew, an irritating way of clearing his throat before speaking, a thousand and one little habits we might think of as imperfections. And yet, as Son of God, he was perfect, perfect in all the ways that matter to God: in love, fidelity and obedience. These too he must have learned from his family, for he did not come into the world fully-formed, so to say. He came as a baby, with all a baby’s fragility and vulnerability. He had to learn how to be a man, and his first teachers were his family.

The man who showed such courage and determination in the face of opposition, such compassion and wisdom in his teaching; who was easy in the presence of women and small children and all those on the margins of society; who possessed in abundance the gift of friendship, was a grandson as well as son. What precisely he owed to Joachim and Anne we cannot say for certain, but today we should pray with gratitude for all grandparents, for they pass on to their grandchildren more than they know.


3 thoughts on “Grandparents”

  1. I’ve often wondered about how little attention is paid to Jesus’ family, even his Stepfather Joseph. We know little about him, and the only things we know about Mary’s parents come to us from the Gospels.

    There is much to ponder on in their relationships with their daughter, wife and mother of Jesus – we know from the Gospels that God prompted Joseph to accept Mary’s pregnancy, in the days when to be pregnant outside marriage was a family calamity and would have made her an outcast. But I can’t find any thing written about her parents reaction to what must have been devastating news.

    Much to ponder on, more mysteries which allow us perhaps to latitude to pray and to imagine the situation they were in, which sadly, seems quite commonplace and acceptable today.

  2. Yes ! — to *all* you write above.

    May I add a complementary line of thought : not least in a small rural community, one expected (? still expects) to be able to ‘place’ a person in an extended family context. One *needed* to know who Mary’s parents were. The habit dies hard… Her son, though, radically recast our understanding of the family, to transcend clan (& all clannish) definitions, in ways his followers still don’t always manage. Baptism trumps the Birth Certificate.

  3. Thank you, both. The more one reflects on the life of Jesus, the more I think one discovers — which makes one question one’s own assumptions, and the assumptions of those around one. Our present idea of the family is quite a modern one, isn’t it, but we tend to use it to read back in time. Lots to ponder, thank you!

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