Every priest who loves the Word of God meditates on the Gospel to be proclaimed, and which he will subsequently explain to the faithful. Besides the knowledge gleaned through his personal study, the Holy Spirit normally inspires him with a deeper understanding regarding the happenings in the life of the Redeemer, illuminating him in relation to the message of salvation, read ‘between the lines’.
However, when we hear ‘reading between the lines’ that coincides with pronouncements denounced by the holy doctors of the Church as heretical, we simply ask: From where is the preacher receiving his inspiration? Or better yet, who is inspiring him?
If anyone would dare to label the episode of the loss and finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple as an ‘escapade’, it is because they think that Jesus acted as a normal youth. However, this hypothesis was declared by Saint Thomas Aquinas, citing a certain Father of the Church, as diabolical.
If someone conjectures that Jesus asked for Mary’s pardon for having stayed in the Temple, it’s because he really believes that Our Blessed Mother reprehended Him, or that Jesus had repented for what he had done. Such a conjecture, however, was declared heretical by Saint Alphonsus Liguori…
We had thought of giving another title to this post…but this already seems too irreverent as it is. No, the Child Jesus was not a mischievous youngster who fooled his naïve parents, who barely were able to reprimand him!
Let us remain firm in our love for the teachings of the Church and never stray from its holy doctrines. Let us seek to become more familiar with them and imitate the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who ‘kept all of these things in her heart’ (Lk 2:51).
Teachings of the Magisterium
I – What the saints and popes teach about the loss and finding of Jesus in the Temple
Calling the loss of Jesus in the temple as acts of His childhood is of a devilish mind and perverse will
This is the first demonstration of the power of the Child Jesus. For as to what are called acts of His childhood, we cannot but suppose them to be the work not only of a childish but even of a devilish mind and perverse will, attempting to revile those things which are contained in the Gospel and the sacred prophecies. (Ancient Greek expositor quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea on Luke 2:42–50)
Maria did not reprove Jesus as the heretics blasphemously assert
‘Son, why hast thou done so to us? Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.’! By these words she did not wish to reprove Jesus, as the heretics blasphemously assert, but only to make known to him the grief she had experienced during his absence from her, on account of the love she bore him. It was not a rebuke, says blessed Denis the Carthusian, but a loving complaint: ‘Non erat increpatio, sed amorosa conquestio.’ (Saint Alphonsus Liguori. The Glories of Mary)
Jesus secretly remained behind, so that He to avoid appearing disobedient
The feast having been celebrated, while the rest returned, Jesus secretly tarried behind. As it follows, And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and his parents knew not of it. It is said, When the days were accomplished, because the feast lasted seven days. But the reason of His tarrying behind in secret was, that His parents might not be a hindrance to His carrying on the discussion with the lawyers; or perhaps to avoid appearing to despise his parents by not obeying their commands. He remains therefore secretly, that he might neither be kept away nor be disobedient. (Ancient Greek expositor quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea on Luke 2:42–50)
In this episode Jesus gives an example of humility and obedience and at the same time of readiness to give up one’s own will
‘How is it,’ he said, ‘that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be concerned with my Father’s business?’ (Lk 2:49). Here already he begins to disclose the secret of the heavenly mysteries in which he had been occupied for the three days. In order to give a more clearly defined and outstanding example of humility and obedience and at the same time of readiness to give up one’s own will and comply with the injunctions of elders even to one’s own disadvantage, he disengaged himself from these sublime concerns so useful and necessary, to submit himself to the will of his parents: in the words of the Evangelist: ‘He went down with them and was subject to them’ (Lk 2:51). (Saint Aelred of Rievaulx. Treatises and Pastoral Prayer, On Jesus at Twelve years old, no. 9)
Jesus does not blame his parents for seeking Him as their son, but compels them to raise the eyes of their mind
He blames them not that they seek Him as their son, but compels them to raise the eyes of their mind to what was rather due to Him whose eternal Son He was. Hence it follows, Knew you not? (Saint Bede the Venerable quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea on Lk 2:42–50)
Jesus was always subject to St. Joseph and to the Virgin
Subject to whom? To a carpenter and a poor virgin. The First and the Last, the Lord of angels: subject to men! The Creator of heaven subject to a carpenter! The God of eternal glory to a poor and lowly virgin! Whoever heard anything like it? Whoever has seen anything like it? […] To be truly wise is to go down, to come to Nazareth, to be subject and to obey perfectly. This should be the sum of your wisdom, which is to be wise unto sobriety (Rom 12:3). (Saint Anthony of Padua. Sermon Second Sunday after Christmas, no. 13.14, (Sermons for Sundays and Saints’ feast days – pg. 62)
Mary yielded to Jesus not as to a boy but as unto God
Mary the wisest of mothers, Mary the mother of true wisdom, becomes the scholar or disciple of the Child. For she yielded to Him not as to a boy, nor as to a man, but as unto God. Further, she pondered upon both His divine words and works, so that nothing that was said or done by Him was lost upon her, but as the Word itself was before in her womb, so now she conceived the ways and words of the same, and in a manner nursed them in her heart. And while indeed she thought upon one thing at the time, another she wanted to be more clearly revealed to her; and this was her constant rule and law through her whole life. (Ancient Greek expositor quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea on Lk 2:51–52)
‘Son, why have you behaved so to us?’ – This question was not a reproach but an exclamation of love
‘Son, why have you behaved so to us? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you in sorrow.’ Again I ask you, my Lady, why did you grieve? It was, I think, not of hunger or thirst or lack of food that you were afraid for the boy who you know was God, it was only that you could not bear to be deprived even for a while of the ineffable delights you found in his presence. For the Lord Jesus is so dear to those who have some experience of him, so beautiful to those who look upon him, so sweet to those who embrace him, that a short absence on his part gives rise to the greatest pain. (Saint Aelred of Rievaulx. Treatises and Pastoral Prayer, On Jesus at Twelve years old, no. 9)
The finding of Jesus in the Temple shows how He lived the Messianic mission
Today’s Gospel is a commentary on how Jesus lived that Messianic mission. It shows us that when Jesus was twelve years old so you are older a little, perhaps he was already aware of his destiny. Tired after the long search for her Son, Mary said to him: ‘My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been looking for you’. And he replied: ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs’ (Lk 2:48 – 49)? This awareness deepened and grew in Jesus with the years, until it burst forth in all its strength when he began his public preaching. The Father’s power at work in him was then gradually revealed in his words and works. It was revealed in a definitive way when he gave himself completely to the Father on the Cross. In Gethsemane, the night before his Passion, Jesus renewed his obedience: ‘Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done’ (Lk 22: 42). He remained faithful to what he had said at twelve years of age: ‘I must be busy with my Father’s affairs. I must do his will’. (John Paul II. World Youth Day in Manila, no. 2, January 15, 1995)
Jesus lets us catch a glimpse of his divine sonship
The finding of Jesus in the temple is the only event that breaks the silence of the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus (cf. Lk 2:41-52). Here Jesus lets us catch a glimpse of the mystery of his total consecration to a mission that flows from his divine sonship: ‘Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s work?’ Mary and Joseph did not understand these words, but they accepted them in faith. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 534)
Jesus is always found in the midst of men: Magister vester unus est Christus
Jesus is twelve years old now. Mary and Joseph are accompanying Him to Jerusalem for the ritual prayer. Suddenly, He disappears from the sight of His loving and vigilant parents. There is great anxiety in the three day search. Pain follows the joy on finding Him, there, within the halls that surround the temple, deep in discussion with the doctors of the Law. And with what significant words Saint Luke meticulously and accurately presents this scene to us! Thus He is found, sitting in the midst of the doctors in the Temple, audientem illos et interroganted eos, ‘listening to them and asking them questions’ (Lk 2:46). A meeting with the doctors, at that time, was of great importance; it meant everything: knowledge, wisdom and practical counsels of living in the light of the Old Testament. […] Christ, like a light from beyond, is never absent: He is found everywhere in the midst of men — where He belongs: Magister vester unus est Christus (Mt 23:10). (John XXIII. Little collection of devout meditations on the mysteries of the Rosary, no. 5, September 29, 1961)
II – Jesus could never have been mistaken, nor would He have committed a reprehensible act. Therefore, He never asked his parents for pardon due to the loss and finding in the Temple
In Jesus there is no sin
You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. (1Jn 3:5)
Our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, like unto men in all things but sin
Following therefore the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man composed of rational soul and body, the same one in being with us as to the humanity, like unto us in all things but sin […] (We confess that) one and the same Lord Jesus Christ the only begotten Son, must be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion or change, without division or separation. The distinction between the natures was never abolished by their union but rather the character proper to each on the two natures was preserved as they came together in one Person, but he is one and the same only begotten Son, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as formerly the prophets and later Jesus Christ himself have taught us about him and as has been handed down to us by the creed of the Fathers. (Denzinger-Hünermann 301-302. Council of Chalcedon, IV Ecumenical, Session V, The Chalcedonies Creed, October 22, 451)
Jesus, God and man, assumed the form of a servant, without the defilement of sin
‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (Jn 1:14), that is, in the flesh that he took from a human being and which he animated with the spirit of rational life. The character of each nature, therefore, being preserved an united in one person […] the inviolable nature was united to a nature subject to suffering […] Therefore, the true God was born in the complete and perfect nature of true man, complete in his nature and complete in ours […] He assumed the form of a servant without the defilement of sin, enriching the human without diminishing the divine, because that self-emptying, through which the invisible rendered himself visible…, was an inclination of mercy not a defect of power. Consequently, the Son of God entered into these lowly conditions of the world, after descending from His celestial throne, and though He did not withdraw from the glory of the Father, He was generated in a new order and in a new nativity. (Denzinger-Hünermann 292-294. Leo I, letter Lexis directions tube to Bishop Fluvial of Constantinople, June 13, 449)
No one may either take away from the divinity or subtract anything from the humanity of Jesus Christ
He, not having anything less of the divinity and taking nothing imperfect from humanity, is not divided by the two natures, nor is he twofold in his Person, but, as complete God and complete man apart from any sin, he is one Christ in the singularity of Person. Existing thus one in the two natures, he is resplendent with signs of divinity and subject to the sufferings of humanity. […] Therefore, if anyone, concerning Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born from the womb of the Virgin Mary, should either take away from the divinity or subtract anything from the humanity, except only the law of sin, and does not believe sincerely that he exists as true God and complete man in one Person, let him be anathema. (Denzinger-Hünermann 564. XIV Synod of Toledo, November 14 – 20, 684)
For Christ was it a mark of duty to obey man, or of weakness to obey God?
And can you wonder if He who is subject to His mother, also submits to His Father? Surely that subjection is a mark not of weakness but of filial duty. Let then the heretic so raise his head as to assert that He who is sent has need of other help; yet why should He need human help, in obeying His mother’s authority? He was obedient to a handmaid, He was obedient to His pretended father, and do you wonder whether He obeyed God; Or is it a mark of duty to obey man, of weakness to obey God? (Saint Ambrose of Milan quoted by Saint Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea on Lk 2:51 – 52)
Jesus’ answer shows that he had done nothing unusual or disobedient in staying at the Temple
In the episode of the 12-year-old Jesus, the first words of Jesus are also recorded: ‘How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ (Lk 2:49). After three days spent looking for him his parents found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions (Lk 2:46). His answer to the question of why he had done this to his father and mother was that he had only done what the Son should do, that is, to be with his Father. Thus he showed who is the true Father, what is the true home, and that he had done nothing unusual or disobedient. He had stayed where the Son ought to be, that is, with the Father, and he stressed who his Father was. (Benedict XVI. General audience, December 28, 2011)
Jesus prepares his Mother for the mystery of the Redemption
Through this episode, Jesus prepares his Mother for the mystery of the Redemption. During those three dramatic days when the Son withdraws from them to stay in the temple, Mary and Joseph experience an anticipation of the triduum of his Passion, Death and Resurrection. Letting his Mother and Joseph depart for Galilee without telling them of his intention to stay behind in Jerusalem, Jesus brings them into the mystery of that suffering which leads to joy, anticipating what he would later accomplish with his disciples through the announcement of his Passover. (John Paul II. General audience, no. 2, January 15, 1997)
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