Fifth Joyful Mystery: The Finding of the Child Jesus |
This mystery marks the final public appearance of Jesus from the time He was twelve until He reached thirty. In this mystery in the Temple we see the relationship between Mother and Son. In Mary's few words we see expressed the loving and concerned motherly compassion that so well defines her role for us as her children today, and in her Divine Son's reply is laid out the mission Christ will undertake.
"When bad things happen to us that we just do not understand, we should ponder the reason in our heart knowing that there is a good reason why this happened. The reason will eventually be realized, perhaps after prayerful reflection or consideration, perhaps later in life but ultimately when we reach our final destination. Embrace these difficulties and unite them with the suffering of Christ for the sake of souls (as Mary and Joseph did) and to knock off a block of your Purgatorial sentence off - where you will not get out until you have paid the last cent - better to pay now with a little suffering than later with a lot of suffering."
"And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast. And after they had fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child, Jesus, remained in Jerusalem and His parents knew it not" (Luke 2: 42-43).
When meditating on the finding of Jesus in the Temple we first consider how He was lost (by His parents) and to understand this we must first understand why they went to the Temple in the first place. In the book of Exodus we find the command to celebrate the feast of the Passover.
I would imagine that one could reasonably conclude that Our Lady was the source of most of the information contained in the infancy narratives. The evangelists, Apostles and perhaps other followers of Our Lord, in all probability, found much consolation in having Our Lady around answering their numerous questions and advising them on their concerns. She is called the Seat of Wisdom because God Himself sat on her lap. She also probably helped to lessen their sense of loss after Our Lord ascended into Heaven.
Jesus lived 30 years with Mary. Everything we do has significance. Jesus did not waste this time. Every moment of time we have can be redeeming. He sanctified each and every moment of human life from conception to death.
Jesus in this Fifth Mystery is visiting His Own temple. He is the high priest. He is THE Passover lamb. Being the Son of God He would have had full knowledge of what was to be - the sacrifice he was to endure.
So after they had fulfilled their duties and celebrated the great Passover Feast, Joseph (possibly with other men) and Mary (possibly in a group of woman though I would imagine the men of the caravan had to be nearby for protection) head home.
"And thinking that He was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought Him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance" (Luke 2: 44).
On these types of pilgrimages people traveled in large groups - safety being a primary reason. All of Mary's and Joseph's friends and relatives would have been there with the many children God blessed them with. They could have traveled a day or so thinking their Son was in the group somewhere - He had never done anything "wrong" before. There would be no reason why He would go off unnoticed, or so they thought.
But He did go off unnoticed. Was He disobedient? No. He never sinned, so He never disobeyed His parents. Wouldn't they, beforehand, have told Him, "Now don't you go sneaking off?" I don't think so, because He quite probably never did that type of thing before.
Why this strange occurrence? Why this sudden change of behavior out of the blue? You can bet there was a reason for this curious action in that nothing Jesus did was insignificant.
Perhaps our Lord did this, at least in part, to prepare His mother for what was to come - His being gone three days and then being found again at His death and Resurrection. Perhaps, being the Son of God and being at the Temple, He was compelled to stay while in His humanity He innocently may not have even thought about or realized that His parents were leaving. This is a mystery and I believe that we cannot know for certain our Lord's thinking in this circumstance, nor is it essential to know what our Lord was thinking when He stayed behind while meditating on this Mystery.
The fact that this was recorded in Scripture means that this is a significant event that happened for a significant reason(s) whatever the reason for it was. I believe this was meant (at least in part) to benefit His Mother in some way known to God.
"And not finding Him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking Him" (Luke 2: 45).
Can you imagine the shock our Lord's dear parents felt after traveling for a day when they realized Jesus was not with them?
Why do seemingly bad things happen to good people? Consider the story of Jonah and how he disappeared in the belly of a great fish. This quite probably seemed like a bad thing to Jonah. But it resulted in a great good - the repentance and renunciation of a sinful life by a great number of people. God chastised Jonah, only to reward the great works that would result from this chastisement. All things work out for the good for those who are obedient in a faith that is working in the love of Christ. This becomes clearer when we see Christ disappear in the tomb. Here, we see the total obedience, submissiveness and love of the Son for the Father when He summits to a death and defeat that is victory and life for those who are in Christ.
Things happen in this life that we do not understand. We see enough justice and mercy from God in this life to help us understand that there is a Hell and there is a Heaven and that every living human being has the possibility of either destination until the moment of death despite what some heretical Christians in their novel way of thinking conveniently prefer to think. Some see all the evilness that God allows to happen to the innocent in this life, yet deny that there is a Hell or deny the possibility of going there.
This brings to mind the topic of Purgatory and how Purgatory is a composite of God's Justice and Mercy - for if there was only a Heaven and Hell then most of us would end up in Hell because you cannot enter Heaven unless you are perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect. Purgatory manifests God's justice in that we must pay for the part of our sins that have not been remitted in this life because God's justice does not allow us to "get away" with evil. Purgatory shows God's mercy in that our not being pure enough to see the face of God and live at the moment of death by the Mercy of God (so long as we have not died in a state of mortal sin) does not result in our being barred from the Beatific Vision for all eternity. God's justice rewards the good we do and chastises the evil we do in this life, while His mercy gives us every opportunity to do good and avoid evil - to persevere in good works while running the race so as to win - to turn away form our evil ways and towards The Ultimate Good which is God Himself.
When bad things happen to us that we just do not understand, we should ponder the reason in our heart knowing that there is a good reason why this happened. The reason will eventually be realized, perhaps after prayerful reflection or consideration, perhaps later in life but ultimately when we reach our final destination. Embrace these difficulties and unite them with the suffering of Christ for the sake of souls (as Mary and Joseph did) and to knock off a block of your Purgatorial sentence off - where you will not get out until you have paid the last cent - better to pay now with a little suffering than later with a lot of suffering.
Our Lady and Saint Joseph must have been in great anguish when they realized their Child had disappeared. They may have even thought, "This isn't fair, why do these things always happen to me?" Very unlikely, but this is probably what we might think when something like this happens to us. One terrible thing or perhaps even just some small inconvenience can be enough to make us forget all the blessings God bestows upon us - each and every moment of our existence. Do you realize that if God stopped thinking about us for a second we would cease to exist? Yet we can be so quick to blame Him for any wrong or perceived wrong that He allows to happen to us. I know I have.
So why did Our Lord put His parents through this anguish? Was it to prepare His Mother for the time He would spend in the tomb? Was it to prepare her for the time when He would leave home and be about His Fathers business? Or was it some bad thing that He purposely allowed to happen to them for no reason at all? Consider what our Lord allowed His parents to go through when thinking you are going through some ordeal for "no reason".
We do well to imitate His mother and ponder these things in our heart rather than coming to rash judgments. So Mary and Joseph, probably scared out of their wits, return to the Temple to look for their Son.
Could you imagine having to explain to God the Father, "We're terribly sorry but we seem to have lost Your Son."?
For every virtue there are two extremes or vices. If I were to draw a triangle, and at the top of that triangle put the word hope, what words (extremes or vices) would I put at the bottom corners?
Let us take the example of Mary and Joseph when they had lost Jesus. Seeing that they had accepted Jesus as Lord in way far more deep and profound than we, they could have just presumed, "God has done everything for us, so we do not have to do anything except accept Him. He'll pop up; there is no need for us to look for Him." What would the vice be here? That vice would be the vice of presumption.
On the other hand, suppose they just gave up. Rationalizing within their minds, "God gave us our chance and we blew it, there is no hope for us now, why were we ever born!?" What would this vice be? Despair.
Let us apply this to our daily lives. The Church Christ founded and teaches through says we are washed clean in Baptism. Many other groups say we are washed clean when we accept Jesus, but without sacramental grace it is for naught. The practicing Jews say this happens at circumcision, but that was the old law which Christ dissolved. We do need to be circumcised - circumcised in our heart and mind. Supposing we can and have been washed clean, is it possible to get dirty again? Of course, and that is the reason for the healing Sacrament of Penance. I will deal with that in future meditations.
Consider the anxiety our Lady and Saint Joseph must have felt when they realized our Lord was missing. They had no cell phones to instantly locate Him. They were, in essence considering the number of people, looking for a needle in a haystack. This must have been a terrible feeling and should be considered in the light of Old Testament history knowing how God tests His people such as Job and how terrible things can happen to those closest to Him. "Why did this happen!" they must have thought humanly. Were they blaming themselves? Maybe. Were they blaming God? Most assuredly not. Were they praying to Him? Most assuredly. Our Lady and Saint Joseph are prime examples of how to respond in a time of crisis.
"And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard Him were astonished at His wisdom and His answers" (Luke 2: 46-47).
So after three days Mary and Joseph find our Lord in the Temple among the Doctors who were astonished at His wisdom.
Shew!!! What a relief!!! They finally found Him!!! The Doctors were astonished at His wisdom. This is interesting. I believe this is another "tidbit" recorded in Scripture to help affirm our faith that Jesus is the Christ. This is a reminder to His parents and to us that this is not just a normal boy. Perhaps it is an implicit way of showing that Jesus is Himself the true Temple.
"And seeing Him, they wondered. And His mother said to Him: 'Son, why hast Thou done so to us? behold, Thy father and I have sought thee, sorrowing. And He said to them: "How is it that you sought Me? did you not know, that I must be about the things that are My Father's?" And they understood not the word that He spoke unto them. And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth: and was subject to them. And His mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men" (Luke 2: 48-52).
When considering why Jesus mysteriously disappeared for no apparent reason we can understand why Mary "pondered these things in her heart". She did not immediately know why this happened either. But instead of dismissing it as something insignificant she ponders this in her heart. She knows that when dealing with God that we are dealing with One Whose ways are not our ways. God does not just give us the answers. He does not make things easy on us. We have to go through tests, trials and tribulations. We have to try to figure some things out on our own while allowing Him to guide us to the truth. This is how we REALLY learn. The best teachers do not just give their students the answers. They ask them questions. Why? Because this puts the student in the position of having to think. An answer learned in this fashion, in my opinion, is less likely to be forgotten or to be considered insignificant.
Consider also that these were the first words Christ spoke in Sacred Scripture. Wouldn't you have loved to be there to hear the Son of God talking to the most learned men of His time? Can you imagine what His voice might have sounded like at that age, His assuredness and confidence to speak. He was only twelve, but His divine nature must have taken over for humanly to know what He knew would be nigh unto impossible. Impossible that is unless Mary was the master teacher of a Protégé Who possessed the greatest of intelligence and could grasp the entire concept of things in a split second. Highly implausible you might say, but considering He was the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity Who had chosen the Blessed Virgin for all time, it is possible, very possible. We can imagine that Joseph taught his foster Son how to fish, in a matter of speaking, and Mary taught Him how to share that knowledge with others. Joseph was the head, Mary the heart, and the human nature of Jesus soaked in both in perfect balance in harmony with His divine nature.
Mary knew very well that her Son was God. That could very well be why she was not taken aback by His comment as a common mother might have been. Most mother's would take offense at what might seem like insolence, but coming from Jesus it was a visible signal to His Mother that He was not only her Son, but His Heavenly Father's and He had a mission. Mary, in her perpetual fiat accepted even though she did not fully understand, and Jesus, in His fiat of the Word becoming flesh, submitted to the human authority of His earthly parents. Mary kept all in her heart just as the prophet Simeon had foretold and Mary, who was the living tabernacle that had housed God for nine months and continued to house the Word in her Most Immaculate and Sorrowful Heart.
It must have been difficult for our Lady during the life of our Lord not to fully comprehend what her Divine Son would do or face, so within the depths of her heart she acknowledges the limits of the human intellect and bows to the mystery giving this lack of complete comprehension along with any anxiety for her Son this lack of complete comprehension may have caused her as a sweet smelling oblation to God. And then, it's quite possible that Jesus, in those many years at home, told her all about His mission. We don't know and won't know until we are in the presence of God in Heaven. What we do know is that Mary knew that in God's time she would understand all that her Divine Son would want revealed to her. She accepted fully. Can you imagine the magnificent conversation that must have gone on in the house of the Holy Family? We can only imagine for from this point on not a word of Christ's is recorded in Scripture until His thirtieth year. That is a gap of 18 years. Truly if silence was golden for our Lord, it is so for us as well. We should all speak less and pray more, pondering these mysteries in our hearts.
"Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH" Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373