Finding the boy Jesus in the temple

July 23, 2021 • 5 min

From St. Joseph’s Life, Virtues, Privileges, Power, page 146

Three times in the year the men of Israel were bound by the Law of God to present themselves before the Almighty, and to worship Him in the Temple. “Three times in the year all the males shall appear in the sight of the Almighty Lord, the God of Israel” (Exod. xxxiv. 23). The three times are specified in Deuteronomy. “Three times in the year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of the leavened bread, in the feast of the weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles” (Deut. xvi. 16).

We shall not here enter into the dispute among the learned whether St. Joseph went to worship in the Temple at the three appointed times according to the Law of Moses, or only once in the year. The Gospel of St. Luke, as we have seen, mentions only one visit. Children who had not attained the age of twelve years were not bound by this Law; hence, arises another controversy among commentators, whether the Child Jesus, before He attained the age of twelve, accompanied his parents to adore in the Temple. As males only came under the Law, theologians are divided in opinion whether the Blessed Virgin accompanied her holy Spouse to Jerusalem, or stayed at home at Nazareth with the Child Jesus.

What appears most reasonable, and in accordance with the habits of the Holy Family to “fulfil all justice” is, that St. Joseph observed the Law of Moses to the letter, and that the Blessed Virgin, through piety and devotion, as well as to give holy example to the Jewish women, accompanied St. Joseph, and that at each visit they took with them the Child Jesus; for we could not think for a moment that they would leave behind them at Nazareth, to another’s care, a treasure they loved a thousand times dearer than their lives.

Be all this as it may, as the Gospel is silent, we are only certain that when our Divine Lord had attained the age of twelve years, the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, offered supreme homage to the Lord God of Israel at the Temple in Jerusalem.

The distance from Nazareth to Jerusalem is about a hundred miles. Here again the world envies St. Joseph, and pronounces him thrice happy in being appointed and privileged by heaven to minister to the wants and comforts of Jesus and Mary, during a long journey of at least five days.

When the solemn feast and devotions of the Pasch were over, Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem for their home at Nazareth, believing at the same time that the Child Jesus, in whose wisdom and prudence they had full confidence, was in the company of his relatives and townsmen.

On the evening of the first day’s journey the parents thought it time to look after the comforts of their Divine Son, and hence sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances; but to their unutterable grief could not find Him.

In bitter anguish and sorrow they sought the object of their love among the pilgrims from Nazareth, and not finding Him, they retraced their steps to Jerusalem. For the first time in her life Mary felt the point of that sword of sorrow, which Simeon long before had prophesied, would pierce her soul.

Inn after inn, house after house at Jerusalem was searched for the missing one; the hearts of Mary and Joseph were rent with the most bitter anguish, sorrow, and anxiety. Though the absence of Jesus made each moment seem an age, yet it was God’s divine will, in order that Mary might taste the first drops of the bitter chalice, which she was to drink to the last drop at the foot of the Gross on Mount Calvary, that only after three days of sorrow and search, did Mary and Joseph find the object of their love in the Temple “in the midst of the doctors.”

The first loving look of Jesus inundated, so to speak, the hearts and souls of Mary and Joseph with supreme joy and delight. They have found their Son, their God, their Lord, their Love, and their All.

The Child Jesus, having done His “Father’s business,” returned to Mary and Joseph, and “went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them.”

May we never lose Jesus by mortal sin; and if that greatest of all misfortunes, in an evil hour befalls us, which God in His mercy forbid, may we at once seek Jesus “sorrowing;” may we at once find Him, and recover the love and friendship of God our Saviour. Mary and Joseph, pray for us.

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