Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he
was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After
the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed
behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their
company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their
relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem
to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting
among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who
heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw
him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us
like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." "Why were
you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's
house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
This is a story so familiar to all of us that we may be inclined to pass it over without deriving much meaning from it. As I came across it yesterday, however, I began to think about it differently.
First of all, imagine what the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph were feeling when they realized Jesus was not where they thought he was. Of course, any parent would feel terrified, frantic, worried, etc., but this was Jesus. Imagine being responsible for losing God’s only son—“I send Him to you for a few decades and you LOSE Him? After TWELVE years?!”—the prospect must have been rather upsetting, to say the least. So, naturally, the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph scrambled about Jerusalem searching for their child. Equally naturally, they found Him in the last place they looked, the Temple—which should have been the first place they had thought to search.
Analogies to our own lives can be drawn from this story. Do we search for Jesus when we feel we’ve been separated from Him? And do we search in the right places—the confessional, Mass, the Eucharist, prayer, etc.? Questions about this search should be very important to us as people of faith, as Christians, and especially as Catholics.
One of my favorite lesser-known teachings of the Church is about the path to salvation. The Catholic Church teaches that even non-Catholics can travel along this path as long as they are actively seeking truth; for by this ACTIVE search, they are participating in the universality of Catholicism. I assume most people feel comforted by this. I know I do, to a certain extent, for it gives me hope for those who do not ascribe to the Catholic (or even Christian) faith. At the same time, however, I find the implications of this teaching very frightening for those of us who already claim to be Catholics. According to this, we are not participating in the Catholic Church unless we are actively seeking truth. Therefore, unless we are growing in our faith, we are not being truly Catholic—and not working towards our salvation.
This is a serious issue, and it should be at the center of our lives. It is only by better understanding our faith and how to implement it in our everyday actions that we can become the people the Lord created us to be. Let us hope that we pursue this with the zeal of our Virgin Mother and St. Joseph!