Every year, the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as was customary. And when Jesus was twelve years old, he went up with them, according to the custom of this feast. After the festival was over, they returned, but the boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents did not know it.
They assumed that he was in their group of travelers, and, after walking the whole day, they looked for him among their relatives and friends. As they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem, searching for him; and, on the third day, they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. And all the people were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
His parents were very surprised when they saw him; and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I were very worried while searching for you.” Then he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand this answer.
Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and he continued to be obedient to them. As for his mother, she kept all these things in her heart.
It is difficult for us to imagine how the boy Jesus grew up. We are so used to thinking of him as “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,” as we say in the Creed every Sunday, that it requires quite an adjustment to imagine young Jesus learning how to walk, talk, eat, get potty trained, pray, and so on. Because of this complete ordinariness of Jesus in all things, Mary and Joseph had progressively lost sight of the fact that their Son was no ordinary human being.
Why did Jesus remain behind in the temple? The text of today’s gospel reading hints at an answer. Mary says to Jesus: “Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” But Jesus discreetly corrects her. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” There is a subtle opposition here between Jesus’ two fathers: his legal one (Joseph) and his real one (God). The latter decidedly has precedence over the former, in the eyes of Jesus. Mary does not yet understand all the implications of this. But, because she has a meditative and prayerful heart, she will understand one day that Jesus is not only her dear Son, but also her transcendent God.
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