ON THE GOSPEL OF THE SUNDAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF THE EPIPHANY
Consider first, how Jesus, Mary, and Joseph went every year up to Jerusalem, to the temple of God, upon the festivals, notwithstanding their poverty, and their living at the distance of three days’ journey from Jerusalem; and there they employed the weeks appointed for the feast in assisting at the public worship, praises, and sacrifices which, at those times, were offered to God in the temple. Christians, learn from this great example, the diligence with which you ought to assist at the public worship of God upon festivals. Learn not to suffer every trifling difficulty to hinder your attendance in God’s temple on those days, when neither the length nor the charges, either of the journey, or of the stay they were to make in Jerusalem, could keep this holy family from a constant observance of these times dedicated to God. But O! who can conceive the dispositions of soul with which they entered upon these journeys; their recollection on the road, their heavenly conversation in Jerusalem, their profound adoration, their inflamed love, their fervent prayer and devotion in the temple! Let us strive to imitate them.
Consider 2ndly, how when Jesus was twelve years old, and they had gone up, according to their custom, to keep the solemn feast of the Pasch in Jerusalem, after the days of the solemnity were fulfilled – when they returned, our Saviour withdrew himself from them and staid behind them in the city. They, innocently thinking him to be in the company, went one day’s journey homewards without him, and then not finding him, were struck with unspeakable grief and concern for their loss: the more, because they apprehended, lest by some fault of theirs, they might have driven him away from them. Ah! what anguish must it be to a soul, that is sensible of the treasure she possesses when she has Jesus with her, to find that he has withdrawn himself from her; to find that she has lost her treasure. But how much more must this blessed couple have regretted the loss of their Jesus; their love for him being much greater than can be expressed or imagined! For in proportion to their love, their sorrow also must have been great beyond expression. Learn from hence, my soul, what value thou oughtest to set upon the happiness of having Jesus with thee; and how much thou oughtest to regret the loss of him.
Consider 3rdly, that although the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph had lost their Jesus, as to the sensible presence, yet they had not lost him, as to the presence of his grace and love; they had him still very near to them, because they had him in their hearts. A lesson for Christians of good-will, not to be discouraged, not to give themselves up to excessive anguish, if sometimes they experience the like subtraction of the sensible presence of our Lord, by a dryness in their devotions, and a spiritual desolation: let them but take care to keep their heart and will with him, and they may be assured he is not far from them. He has often dealt thus with the greatest Saints – and to their advantage too – to keep them more humble and distrustful of themselves; and to teach them not to seek their own satisfaction in the milk of spiritual consolations, but to be content to feed their souls with the more solid diet of conformity to the will of God, and to the cross of Christ.
Conclude to take care not to drive away Jesus by wilful sin: and be assured that nothing else can ever separate him from thee.