ON SEEKING JESUS, WHEN HE HAS BEEN LOST BY SIN
Consider first, how great an evil it is to lose Jesus by wilful sin. Ah! ’tis a far greater loss than if we should lose our all. This loss is the greatest misery that can befall any soul on this side of eternity – it wants nothing but eternity to make it hell. And yet how common is this loss? How often is Jesus lost in this manner, even in our most solemn festivals, by the abuse of these holy times? And how is it possible that a Christian soul should admit of any manner of comfort, joy, or pleasure, under so great a loss? What then must they do, that have reason to apprehend they have thus lost their Jesus; that he is now no longer theirs, and they no longer his? They must learn from the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, how they are to seek him, and find him again: for though this blessed couple had not lost him in that wretched way, yet the manner in which they sought him may be an instruction to all others, to teach them by what means Jesus may be found again when he is lost.
Consider therefore, 2ndly, that the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph were no sooner sensible that they had lost Jesus, but they began to seek him without the least delay; and they gave themselves no rest, till they had found him: to teach us, that there ought to be no manner of delay in seeking him, as soon as ever we perceive we have lost him; and how much we ought to regret so dismal a loss. They made no stay in the place where they were, but hastened back to Jerusalem, to find him there; not enduring to remain for ever so short a time at a distance from him: to teach us to spare no pains, either night or day, in seeking him, and in using all means in our power to come to him. They sought him, sorrowing, that is, with their souls full of grief and anguish, through the sense they had of the loss of their beloved; to teach us that the true way of finding Jesus when lost, must be by a sorrow influenced with love; that is, by a contrite and humble heart. They sought him with perseverance, and did not give over their search, till they had effectually found him: to teach us not to desist, upon meeting with difficulties and oppositions, in our search after Jesus, but to go on with diligence till we recover his gracious company.
Consider 3rdly, that Jesus was not found by the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph amongst their kindred and acquaintance. Alas! he is too often lost in the company and conversation of our worldly friends; but is very seldom to be found there. The common conversation of the world is at the best but empty, worldly, and distracting; and ’tis out of fashion to speak or think of Jesus in the company of worldlings. Therefore the soul that would effectually find him, must withdraw as much as may be from worldly company, and must enter into a kind of spiritual retreat; she must make the best of her way by spiritual reading, meditation, and prayer, to the temple of God in Jerusalem; or rather she must make a temple for her Jesus within her own self, and seek him there by inward recollection. ‘Tis the surest place to find him. O sinners, return to your own hearts, and you will quickly find your God. When you went astray from him, you went astray also from your own hearts, and from your inward house; you forgot at the same time both God and yourselves. Return home to your interior, and you shall recover them both again.
Conclude, if at any time you have reason to apprehend that you have lost Jesus, to withdraw immediately from the crowd, to seek him in his temple in your own interior, and to give yourselves no rest till you have found him there. There he will hear you; and there he will teach you.