Feast of the Holy Family
The Boy Jesus was lost for three days. All through His infancy there was talk of contradiction, swords, no room, exile, slaughter, and now there was lost. In those three days, Mary came to know one of the effects of sin, namely, the loss of God. Though She was without sin, being full of grace (Lk. 1.28), nevertheless, She knew the fears and the loneliness, the darkness and the isolation which every sinner experiences when he loses God. He was Hers; that was why She sought Him. He was on the business of redemption; that was why He left Her and went to the Temple. She had her “dark night” of the body in Egypt; She would now have Her “dark night” of the soul in Jerusalem. Not only Her body, but also Her soul would have to pay dearly for the privilege of being His Mother. She would later suffer another three-day loss from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. This first loss was part of Her preparation.
And seeing Him they wondered (Lk. 2.48).
The fact that He was sitting in the midst of the doctors would indicate that they received Him not just as a learner, but as a doctor. In this Gospel account, there is a restraint concerning this scene which contrasts strongly with certain apocryphal writings. The “Gospel of Thomas”, which belongs to the second century and which the Church does not accept to be canonical, describes Our Lord on this occassion as a professor. An Arabic gospel of a later period actually makes the instructions touch on metaphysics and astronomy. The revealed Gospels, however, always show powerful restraint to the point of understatement in the describing the the life of the Lord: And seeing Him they wondered.
They were probably astonished because of the learning which He displayed. The Psalmist tells that He had more understanding than His teachers because the testimonies of God were His study. I have understood more than all my teachers: because Thy testimonies are my meditation. I have had understanding above ancients: because I have sought Thy commandments (Ps. 118.99-100, chapter and verses division according to the Sacred Latin Vulgate Bible).
How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business? (Lk. 1.49)
Our Lord’s supreme business was to be a Savior; but for the moment, His business included obedience to His earthly guardians. The Divine Child was implying that there was something in history which ought to be known to His Mother and His foster father, something that justified His being where He was, and forbade their anxiety about Him. This was the first of many musts that Our Blessed Lord uttered during His life to indicate that He was under a mandate, under obedience to be a ransom. The very fact that He associated the word must with this Heavenly Father meant that Sonship implied obedience. At the age of twelve, He was girding Himself for something that would be irksome to His human nature, but His whole nature was bent on the accomplishment of a Divine must.
If there is anything that dispels the false assumptions of the enemies of Christ that His consciousness of a union with the Father developed gradually, it is in this text in which He, as a Boy of twelve, hinted at His mysterious origin and at the peculiar foster character of His father, as well as His perfectly conscious unity with the Godhead; the Divine constraints which swayed His life were already profoundly realized by Him. He often used the word must.
I must preach the kingdom of God (Lk. 4.43).
I must work the works of Him that sent Me (Jn. 9.4).
The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the ancients and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day rise again (Lk. 9.22).
The Son of man must be lifted up (Jn. 12.34).
He always talked as one under orders. Free from the compulsion of heredity, circumstances or family, this Boy of twelve said that He was bound by heaven’s commission. Therefore He asked why they had searched for Him. He was surprised that any explanation other than that He was obeying His Father’s will should even have occurred to them. The imperative of Divine Love was manifested in His I must. His plan was gradually revealed to the minds of men; but there was no gradual revelation in His mind, no new understanding, of why He had come as the Modernists impiously assert.
These are the first words of Our Lord. He spoke them in order to declare His mission and to affirm the primacy of the rights of God. When hardly an adolescent, Our Blessed Lord teaches us that God and the things of God must always come first. He must hold the first place in our lives, and we must obey Him regardless of all other considerations, even if it means sacrificing the rights of nature and of blood. Yielding to family, relatives, and friends is no longer a virtue – and may even be sinful – if it leads us away from the will of God or hinders its fulfillment (as in responding to God’s call to a religious or priestly vocation, for example). But giving precedence to the rights of God does not imply that we neglect our duties toward our parents, friends, and neighbor.
And His Mother kept all these words in Her heart (Lk. 2.51).
The sword prophesied by Simeon was already coming to Mary before the Cross had come to Her Son, for She was already feeling the cutting separation. On the Cross He would, in His human nature, utter the cry of His greatest agony, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? But Our Blessed Mother uttered it while He was still a Boy. The most penetrating sorrows of the soul are those which God imposes, as Jesus imposed this one on His Mother. Creatures can hurt one another only on the outside, but God’s purifying flame can enter their souls like a two-edged sword. Both His natures (divine and human) were teaching Her to prepare for His sorrowful life: His human nature by hiding the loveliness of His Face from Her during those three days, better called three “Nights;” His divine nature by proclaiming that the Father had sent Him to earth to do heaven’s business, which was to open it to mankind by paying the debt of mankind’s sins.