The fifth joyful mystery of the rosary – the finding of the child Jesus in the Temple – has always been a mystery for me. I know that Jesus had to be about his Father's business but how could he let his parents worry about where he was? Why didn't he let them know what he had to do?
It is common for teens to be so immersed in what they are doing that they forget to come for supper or home in the evening causing parents to worry. We must remember that Jesus was fully human. Perhaps, Jesus was so absorbed that he forgot the time.
But there may be an additional explanation to this.
Luke makes sure we know how special Jesus is from the beginning of his Gospel (chapters 1 and 2). An angel announces Jesus' coming; Mary sings her Magnificat at Elizabeth's recognition of Jesus; angels proclaim Jesus' birth to shepherds; Jesus receives the name given by the angel; presented in the Temple, Jesus is recognized as the Saviour by Simeon and the prophetess Anna who immediately goes to preach about Jesus.
But Jesus' parents didn't quite understand and were "amazed at what was being said about him" (2.33).
Luke ends with extolling Jesus who "grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was with him" (2.40). Then nothing more is said of Jesus' childhood until this one incident (2.41-51).
Luke states that Mary and Joseph went yearly to Jerusalem for Passover, but doesn't mention Jesus accompanying them.
But this, his 12th year was special as it had to do with Jesus' coming of age. It was the beginning of a year's preparation with immersion in the beliefs and practices of his people for at the age of 13, every Jewish boy becomes a bar mitzvah, that is, "son of the Covenant." He then assumed the obligation to observe the commandments. He also was regarded as an adult when the congregation needed a minimum number to perform some religious services.
He acquired the right to take part in leading religious services, to recite the blessing over the weekly reading. Sometimes, he read the entire reading of the Schema Israel which begins with "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one" (Deuteronomy 6.4-9).
Sometimes, required to make a speech, he begins, "Today, I am a man." The father thanks God for removing from him the responsibility for his son's actions, as he is now old enough to be accountable.
Does that mean that a bar mitzvah 13-year-old is a full adult? No, it simply means that at this age, a child is mature enough to distinguish right from wrong and act accordingly. This was a time of serious religious commitment to God and observance of the Torah.
Imagine how exhilarating it must have been for Jesus to come into God's house, this temple where God had chosen to dwell, where God was worshipped, where prayers and sacrifices were offered.
After listening during the service, Jesus wants to hear more so he stays with the teachers of the Law, asking them questions. Initially, they must have thought "This kid is from the sticks" because his Galilean accent would show, but soon "they were amazed at his understanding and his answers" (2.47).
When he is found, after an intensive search, he responds to Mary's question: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house and about my Father's business." He takes for granted that his mother knows who he really is and seems surprised by her question.
Again, we read "they did not understand what he said to them" (2.50). This is a recurring reaction in Jesus' lifetime.
But Jesus knows who he is and starts revealing this in the centre of Judaism's religious capital. His "I must be" statement is one of the many times in Luke that Jesus declares that it is "necessary" for him to do the work he was sent to do. Obviously, he is taking responsibility for his life and mission.
Calling God his Father, Jesus reveals his relationship with the Father. This closeness of Jesus with the Father is something that his disciples later struggled to grasp.
How do we see Jesus? Do we truly understand what he was about? "Mary pondered these words in her heart" (Luke 2.51). Perhaps, with Mary, we need to "ponder" Jesus' words and actions in Scripture to understand his mission and be grateful for the magnitude of what he has done for us.
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