THE LOSS OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE
Our Lord, having given us the Blessed Virgin Mary as a model of perfection, it was necessary that she should be laden with sorrows, that in her we may admire heroic patience and endeavour to imitate it. The loss of her Son in the Temple was one of the greatest sorrows that Mary had to endure in her life. Therefore do I weep, and my eyes run down with water because the Comforter, the relief of my soul, is far from me (Lament. i. 16).
St. Luke relates that Mary and Joseph went every year to Jerusalem on the Feast of the Pasch, and took the Infant Jesus with them. It was the custom, says the Venerable Bede, when the Jews made this journey to the Temple, or at least on the return journey, for the men to be separated from the women; and the children went at their pleasure, either with their fathers or their mothers. Our Redeemer, Who was then twelve years old, remained during this Solemnity for three days in Jerusalem. Mary thought He was with Joseph, and Joseph that He was with Mary: Thinking that he was in the company (Luke ii. 44).
The Holy Child employed all these three days in honouring His Eternal Father, by fasts, vigils, and prayers, and in being present at the sacrifices, all of which were figures of His own great Sacrifice on the Cross. If He took a little food, says St. Bernard, He must have procured it by begging and if He took any repose, He could have no other bed but the bare ground.
When Mary and Joseph had come a day’s journey, they did not find Jesus; wherefore, full of sorrow, they began to seek Him amongst their relatives and friends. At last, returning to Jerusalem, after three days they found Him in the Temple, disputing with the Doctors, who, full of astonishment, admired the questions and answers of this wonderful Child. On seeing Him Mary said: Son why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing (Luke ii. 48).
O Mary, thou weepest because thou hast lost thy Son for a few days; He has withdrawn Himself from thy eyes, but not from thy heart. Dost thou not see that the pure love with which thou lovest Him keeps Him constantly united and bound to thee? Thou knowest well that he who loves God cannot but be loved by God, Who says: I love those that love me (Prov. viii. 17); and with St. John: He that abideth in charity abideth in God, and God in him (Jo. iv. 16). Wherefore, then, dost thou fear? Wherefore dost thou weep? Leave those tears to me, who have so often lost God through my own fault, by driving Him away from my soul. O my Jesus! how could I offend Thee thus with my eyes open, when I knew that by sinning I should lose Thee?
There is not upon earth a sorrow like to that which is felt by a soul that loves Jesus, when she fears that Jesus Christ has withdrawn Himself from her through some fault of her own. This was the sorrow of Mary and Joseph, which afflicted them so much during these days; for they feared, in their humility, as says the devout Lanspergius, that perhaps they had rendered themselves unworthy of the care of such a treasure. Wherefore, on seeing Him, Mary said to Him, in order to express this sorrow: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And Jesus answered: Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business? (Luke ii. 49).
Let us learn from this Mystery two lessons: the first, that we must leave all our friends and relatives when the glory of God is in question; and secondly, that God easily makes Himself found by those who seek Him: The Lord is good to the soul that seeketh him (Lam. iii. 25).
Thou willest not that the heart that seeks Thee should despair, but rather that it should rejoice: Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord (Ps. civ. 3). If hitherto I have forsaken Thee, O my Love, I will now seek Thee, and will seek none but Thee. And provided I possess Thy grace, I renounce all the goods and pleasures of this world; I renounce even my own life. Thou hast said that Thou lovest him who loves Thee; I love Thee, do Thou also love me. I esteem Thy love more than the dominion of the whole world. O my Jesus, I desire not to lose Thee any more; but I cannot trust myself, I trust in Thee: In thee, O Lord, have I put my trust; I shall not be confounded forever (Ps. xxx. 6). I beseech Thee, do Thou bind me to Thee, and permit me not to be again separated from Thee. O Mary, through thee have I found my God, Whom I had once lost; do thou obtain for me also holy perseverance; wherefore I will also say to thee with St. Bonaventure: “In thee, O Lady, have I hoped; let me not be confounded forever.”