Message of the Joyful Mysteries – The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

According to the law, every Israelite, beginning with the age of twelve, was bound to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the principal feasts, especially for Easter (or Passover). Although Jesus most probably had made this pilgrimage more than once before, the one He made at the age of twelve is recorded in the Gospel, because it was the first time He made it as a “son of the law,” that is, as one bound by law, and because of the extraordinary circumstances connected with it.

Jesus Lost

At the end of the customary celebrations, Mary and Joseph set out on their return journey to Nazareth. Owing to the large crowds and to the custom that members of the same family would often travel in separate groups, it is easy to understand how Jesus could stay behind without either Mary or Joseph noticing His absence. It was only in the evening, when the groups arrived at the camping place previously agreed upon, and members of the family would meet again, that the loss of Jesus was discovered. Anxiously Mary and Joseph inquired with other groups and passers-by whether they had any knowledge of Jesus’ whereabouts, but no information could be obtained. With hearts torn by grief, they set out at once for Jerusalem and spent the whole following day in seeking Jesus.

Jesus in the Temple

Without the knowledge of Mary and Joseph, Jesus had remained in the temple at Jerusalem. It had become a custom for doctors of the law to set themselves up in the temple halls, interpreting the law and answering questions for the benefit of any one who might be interested. On the occasion of the great feasts, large crowds of people would gather around them, glad to have the opportunity to hear the famous teachers of Israel. Jesus had joined one of these groups. He soon aroused the attention of the doctors and the bystanders by the wisdom of His questions and answers as well as by the charm of His personality and speech.

Questions Asked

We do not know what questions Jesus asked those learned men, but it would not seem far-fetched to suppose that they had to do with prophecies regarding the Messiah and the fulfilment of some of them within recent years. He may have put them through a little examination in contemporary history. Had they ever heard or did they remember the wonderful events that had taken place in Bethlehem about twelve years before this, a story told by shepherds, of angels appearing and announcing the birth of the Saviour? Did they know the story of a little boy being brought to the temple forty days later and of a holy old man by the name of Simeon who said some very striking things about the boy? And surely, they must remember those strange men coming from the East and inquiring in Jerusalem about the newborn King of the Jews! They themselves had directed those men to Bethlehem; did they follow up this strange event, especially when they heard about the massacre of so many little boys in Bethlehem and surroundings, because those Magi did not return to Herod? Could these events not have been the fulfilment of certain prophecies? Such and similar questions on the part of Jesus seem very likely in view of the purpose of this first public manifestation of Himself. He wished to make the leaders of Israel more observant of current events and to prepare them for His public life to begin eighteen years later. But such questions must have kept those doctors of the law and the people in suspense and amazement. Other doctors and people were attracted and Jesus became the centre of a large crowd of people.

Jesus Found

It was in such environment that Mary and Joseph found Jesus after three days’ searching. Their first reaction is unbounded joy; but then the Mother’s tender heart is eager to know whether there had been any fault on her or Joseph’s part that Jesus had been left behind. She asks, “Son, why have You done so to us? Behold, Your father and I have been seeking You sorrowing.” No, there had been no fault on either her or Joseph’s part, nor had Jesus Himself been guilty of any disobedience. But Jesus is not only the Son of Mary but also the Son of the Eternal Father, He is the God-Man and the Saviour, and the present event is part of His mission. And He said to them, “How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” According to the Father’s will the time had come to call the attention of the teachers and leaders of the people to truths and events which would help to direct them to Him in due time, provided they were of good will. That was doing the Father’s business, and to that business He must attend above all others. Mary did not understand the full import of these words of Jesus, but she bowed in all humility to the will of God and she kept all these things carefully in her heart to ponder over them in years to come. Above all, she is happy that no estrangement has arisen between her and Jesus; He remains her loving Child. And He went down with them to Nazareth and was subject to them (Luke 2:41-52).

Souls in Distress

The mystery gives an answer to so many problems of distressed and sorrowful hearts. Fear and doubt and the sense of abandonment are not signs that things are going badly with us spiritually. Interior trials fall to the lot of all true lovers of God; they should not trick us into doing things which might bring on a real loss of God, through mortal sin. The sense of abandonment in particular is invaluable for the purification of the soul. It atones for sin by which in one way or other we have abandoned God, choosing our will in preference to His. But whilst we may thus experience intense mental pain, sorrow and discouragement, God is and acts within us. After a particularly violent temptation, when she had thought herself abandoned by God, Saint Teresa asked Jesus where He had been during that time, and she received the answer that He had been right within her.

Seeking Jesus

After the example of Mary and Joseph, we must seek Jesus in such a situation. The fact that we are temples of God and the Holy Spirit dwells within us directs us to where He should be sought. Let us enter this temple of our souls and with unwavering faith and trust in the goodness of God humble ourselves, acknowledging ourselves unworthy of experiencing the sweetness of His presence. Let us adore the incomprehensible but always loving designs of Divine Providence, and by and by, we shall feel peace return through the conviction that we have not lost Him, that He is still with us. He will speak to us as He spoke to the apostles during the storm on the lake, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26) And since Jesus abides with us in the Blessed Sacrament, we must seek Him also there. From the tabernacle He will speak to us of love and obedience unto death, direct our attention to the glory of the way of the cross that leads to the possession of eternal peace. We shall sense His love which allowed this trial to come upon us only to draw us closer to His Sacred Heart.

As we, ourselves thus seek and find Jesus and in Him the peace of our souls, so we should be helpful to others in seeking and finding Jesus. Many souls there are, indeed, harassed by doubts and fears and despondency, sinners who in a weak moment yielded to their evil passions and now find out that it is a bitter and an evil thing to have forsaken the Lord; there are those separated brethren of ours outside the true Church, who feel the emptiness of their impoverished religion and seek the full truth of Christ that alone can satisfy the heart. They all need help.

Whether the sense of abandonment is a punishment or a trial, our reaction must be the same; we must seek Jesus with love and confidence. He will not be angry with the sinner forever, nor will He hide Himself forever from loving souls, He, whose delight it is to be with the children of men. We shall find Him and sorrow shall be turned into joy. Through meditation on the mysteries of the rosary, our Lady of Fatima directs our attention to the fountains of peace, and she will assist us in finding them in the Heart of her Divine Son through her own immaculate and motherly heart.

– from Message of the Rosary – Joyful Mysteries, by Father Aloysius Biskupek, S.V.D.