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When I was in the seminary, I learned a counseling technique called “active listening.” When utilizing this technique, the counselor is supposed to repeat back to the counselee what he or she has just heard, only using different words. For example, if someone says to me, “I don’t feel very Christmassy,” I might say, “It sounds like something is bothering you.” This technique is meant to let the counselee know that the counselor is understanding him or her, but to me, it sometimes seems like just a test of my language skills or how fast I can think.

It is not easy to understand other people--their feelings, their experiences, everything that makes them who they are—and it is equally difficult to be understood. Even the people closest to us, such as members of our families, may not understand us. Case in point: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in our gospel story today. Frustrated by his parents’ lack of understanding of his relationship with God, the boy Jesus says to Mary and Joseph, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” It is also fair to assume that his parents were not understood by Jesus.

While we may admit how difficult it is for people to understand us, we all long for that understanding. The perception that people don’t understand us can lead not just to frustration and anger, but also to loneliness and isolation. This is why it is so important for us to remember that in spite of what others may or may not understand about us, there is someone who understands us perfectly: our joys and sorrows, blessings and burdens, hopes for the future and past regrets. With great compassion and love, God understands each one of us better than any human being is capable of doing. With great compassion and love, God understands you and me better than we could ever understand ourselves.

Holy Family (Dec. 27, 2015)
see Luke 2:41~52

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