“By giving us his Son whom, in order to spare us he did not spare, he gave us everything: graced, love, heaven; for all these indeed are less than his Son.” – St. Alphonsus Liguori
Luke 2:41-52: Every year his parents used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere. Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’ ‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant. He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.
Christ the Lord At the age of twelve Jewish boys took their place in their community as young men. Up till then, they were not strictly under the law, but upon coming of age, they were expected to carry their own weight religiously and begin to do so socially and economically. Thus this trip to Jerusalem for the Passover was probably Jesus’ first; previously he would have stayed at home with the other young children. Certainly the throngs of pilgrims, the glory of the big city, and the pageantry of the religious ritual fascinated him (especially because of his unique mission and identity), inducing him to stay behind when the caravan from Nazareth headed home – the women traveling ahead of the men, which is why Joseph probably thought Jesus was with Mary, and vice versa.
During the Passover festival, the Jewish leaders (members of the Sanhedrin) gave open lectures and led public discussions in the Temple precincts. Jesus participated in these, his unusual interest and uncanny intuition making a dramatic impression upon the other youngsters as well as the rabbis.
What was on Jesus’ mind as he spent these three days alone in the City of David? St. Luke gives us a clue. When Joseph and Mary finally catch up to him, Mary says, “Your father and I have been looking for you…” and Jesus answers, “I must be in my Father’s house.” At some point in his young life, Jesus the human boy, the son of Joseph the carpenter, must have begun to understand who he was as Jesus the Son of God. And even if he had known it long before, now that he had officially come of age, it was high time that he begin to act in accordance with it.
Once again, we see that Christ’s Lordship is not an exterior tag, a romantic title tacked on to a great philosopher by sycophant disciples. He is Lord of men because he is God become man, come to live with us and establish his eternal Kingdom.
Christ the Teacher For thirty of his thirty-three years of earthly life, Jesus “was obedient to” his parents in Nazareth. In other words, he lived the most normal, unglamorous life that can be imagined: he worked in a carpenter’s shop in a small town on the edge of the Roman Empire. He did chores, he studied his lessons, he went to the Synagogue on Saturdays, he played with his cousins, he helped his mother fetch the water… for thirty years. He did nothing miraculous or spectacular… for thirty years. Is he trying to teach us something? Isn’t he showing us that to be a Christian, to be a saint, begins with the faithful fulfillment of the normal responsibilities of life? God created us to be human, and he expects us to reach our potential by living fully human lives. A Christian should be a model son, daughter, father, mother, student, carpenter, athlete, bricklayer, statesman, marketing director – whatever our situation in life, we should live it deeply, conscious that by taking upon himself our human nature, Christ sanctified the human condition. He made the ordinary activities and duties of life into channels of divine grace.
Christ the Friend Often we are afraid to be honest in our prayer. We feel that our everyday struggles, needs, questions, and frustrations are too petty for God. But Christ proves that attitude wrong. He grew up in a family – a poor family, in fact – and he did not magically protect them from all the mundane concerns that buffet the daily struggle of such families. Mary and Joseph didn’t understand what he was saying; they were worried sick when they couldn’t find him – they reacted the way any healthy parents would react to a crisis situation. It is precisely in the midst of these seemingly petty experiences that God can work in our souls, on one condition: that we, like Mary, “store up all these things” and ponder them in our hearts. God is always drawing close to us, drawing us closer to himself – we need only make an effort to detect his action, and his action will be able to take its effect.
Joseph: I really never knew what was going to happen next. Most days followed the same pattern of work and rest. Mary made our home the brightest and neatest in the town, and Jesus was the most energetic, healthiest, and most helpful boy you could imagine. Our little place was always buzzing with activity. Everyone who needed help or comfort came by, knowing that Mary would find a solution – and that kept me busy too. They were both docile, always finding ways to make me happy. Yet, this normal, strenuous, beautiful life was lit up every once in a while by flashes of the extraordinary, like when we lost Jesus in the Temple. I knew I was part of a bigger story, and God kept reminding me of it. I always felt that it was something far beyond what I could understand. I listened to the Lord; I did every task as best I could, and I simply had to trust that he would work everything out in the end.
Christ in My Life Thank you for coming to be my Savior, Lord. Thank you for becoming Mary’s child, so that I could become a child of God. When I take time to think of all that you have done and all that you are doing, my worries and concerns shrink down to their proper size. You are busy about your Father’s work – teach me to be busy doing your will in my life…
I think I have lost some of my ability to enjoy the simple pleasures and challenges of life. I think I have fallen into the trap of consumerism – always needing new toys to feel stimulated and happy. Purify me, Lord. You were happy amid the work and suffering of Nazareth. Blessed be Nazareth, blessed by your holy name…
Mary, how were you able to keep believing the words of the angel when for thirty years you saw no advances of your son to claim his Kingship…. Teach me to live with faith. I always want so badly to understand everything. Did you want that too? You bore Wisdom himself in your womb, and you raised him and taught him and loved him. He clung to you and depended on you. Mary, teach me to live with Jesus, to learn from him…
PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part. To learn more about The Better Part or to purchase in print, Kindle or iPhone editions, click here. Also, please help us get these resources to people who do not have the funds or ability to acquire them by clicking here.
Art for this post on Luke 2:41-52: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. Christ Discovered in the Temple, Simone Martini, 1342, PD-US published or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office before January 1, 1923, Wikimedia Commons.