Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.Luke 2:41-52
I wanted to share a recent reflection during some Lexio divina (divine reading in which we read; meditate; pray; contemplate).
This reading comes up early in the gospels, and is also the 5th joyful mystery of the rosary. In many meditations, I found myself drawn to how hard it was for His parents. Can you imagine the fear when by the end of the first day they realized Jesus wasn’t in the party and they needed to turn around? Then perhaps on the end of the second day when they were likely asking everyone they passed, not finding Him, then needing to end their second night without any luck? Those must have been terribly frightening and restless nights. Then the third day when they finally found Him – perhaps when they had exhausted the obvious places in Jerusalem and went to the Temple to pray for help. We can imagine all the feelings and fear they had when looking for Jesus – many of the same fears, struggles, and disappointments we sometimes get while trying to find God in our own lives – only to find him in prayer/sacraments when we come to our wits end and stop relying only on ourselves.
We can also focus spiritually on this as a prefiguring of Jesus’ three days in the tomb. Or perhaps as a mirror of our journey through Lent in which we search for Jesus in our lives during Lent/his 3 days in the tomb, only to find him at the resurrection at Easter. We find He has passed on to His Father’s heavenly house where we finally find Him.
But in a recent reflection, I found myself focusing on what Jesus must have experienced.
I got lost once in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on a family trip when I was about 10 years old. I got completely captivated playing with a set of really cool mechanical gear displays. (It turns out someone else liked them too and put a recording up on Youtube.) I think playing with these displays was one of the first really big moments when I got fascinated in engineering. It was definitely a formative moment for me and hit a chord that lead me down the roads of math and sciences.
After being completely captivated with workings for a long time, I turned around and realized the rest of my family wasn’t there. I tried to find them but didn’t know where they’d gone. A couple saw my peril and took me to the central desk. They pinged my parents on the intercom. It turns out I was only a room away from them. It was only for a few minutes but with 5 kids they didn’t notice I wasn’t still in the gaggle of kids in the crowd, nor had I notice they had moved on. I think every parent/child has had this experience.
I was reflecting on this reading and that memory surfaced with all the feelings at the time. Perhaps Jesus was also completely captivated by the Temple and felt a powerful connection to His Father. The passage says they went every year, but this particular year Jesus must have been drawn especially for some reason. Perhaps it was like Samuel who is called while in the house of the Lord where the ark was kept.
I think we all have these moments of being completely captivated by something so that everything else falls away. For me as a kid it was those fascinating mechanical workings – to the point I didn’t even realize I’d ‘lost’ my family. In later years, praying with the blessed sacrament was the place I found an even more profound captivation and sense of place, home, and real peace in my heart. In those moments, there was nowhere else I could imagine being. Maybe Jesus experienced this at the age of 12 as He was captivated by His Father’s house and spent time there until He’d completely missed the fact his parents had left. I certainly have felt that kind of complete absorption in prayer at times.
But what about first night? Where’d He stay? Or the second night? Where did He get food? I get the feeling this might have been the very first awakenings of turning to and trusting in His heavenly Father to provide everything He needed. At some point as the evening fell, He must have realized his parents were gone. Perhaps He decided to stay where He most felt at home – the Temple where He was in His Father’s presence – the only place Jesus could imagine being. Perhaps He slept in the doorway or inside the Temple itself. Perhaps people gave Him bread and food the second day. While being there, He probably met the scribes and priests and started asking questions.
Jesus speaks very matter of fact to His parents about this. I think many parents have asked kids why they did something and children also state such wisdom and reasoning so matter of fact. I also wonder that this was probably a huge formative moment in which He, and all of us, learn that we can and need to completely trust our heavenly Father to provide what we need. Jesus seemed to think all His answers, material needs, and place was with His Father.
Do we find ways to turn to God in our day – as the one place we come back to again and again no matter what goes on in life? Do we return to God in prayer as the one place we find refuge during the great joys, the quiet times, the worried times, and even times of feeling completely lost?