When my goddaughter was very young, I took her to Mass at my church. She sat quietly on my lap, absorbed in contemplation. It was Jesus who lived in that little gold house behind the altar. She frowned in puzzlement as she pondered this mystery, obviously wondering why she couldn't see him.
Suddenly, her face cleared. With a delighted smile, she turned to me and exclaimed with childlike logic, "I know why Jesus is hiding. He wants me to come and find him!"
I have recalled her words in times of loss when it seemed as if God was far away from me. So often, my maternal heart has sought comfort in front of the tabernacle or in the celebration of holy Mass. There, I have gone to find my hidden Lord when the events of life have threatened to overwhelm me.
In the Gospel of Luke, we find Mary in a similar situation, anxiously searching for God. What is going through this mother's heart as she spends three days looking for her son?
Mary had accepted the angel's revelation about her holy Child — the one to be called "the Son of the Most High," who would "save his people from their sins" (Luke 1.32). How could this come about, if she — whom the Lord had entrusted with his care — couldn't find him anywhere?
Had she failed her God? And when Mary finds him after three days, does this anguished mother forget all of God's prophecies, overcome with relief at the sight of her son?
Jesus says to her then, "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2.49). Here is a 12-year-old Jewish boy on the threshold of manhood, about to become a "son of the commandment" (Jeremiah 35.16). Jesus freely initiates his own coming of age, offering his life and service to the Law.
From this time on, it will be his own responsibility to uphold the commandments as a faithful Israelite. His duty toward God has become more important than even his family relationships.
Elsewhere in the Gospels, we hear Jesus defending his Father's house when he clears the Temple. He also refers to heaven as his Father's house, and he promises to go and prepare a place for us there.
In Luke's Gospel, when Mary finds the boy Jesus in the Temple, he reveals himself as the obedient Son, standing ready to do his Father's will. In this Gospel account, Jesus foretells his perfect willingness to suffer and die in order to lead us to our heavenly home.
For Mary, the Gospel isn't simply a hearing and a remembering - it is an unfolding of the actual events in her life. What does Jesus mean when he calls God his Father?
How can Mary, a devout Jew, make sense of this wondrous revelation? She believes with a perfect faith in the God of Israel, the one true God of her ancestors. How can she understand that this holy child is the Son of the Most High, and therefore, God himself?
The simple answer to this question is that Mary doesn't understand. In her perfect faith and complete trust in God, she doesn't need to make sense of Jesus' words. She only seeks to ponder them, keeping "all these things in her heart" (Luke 2.51).
She prays, and waits, and puts all of her hope in the Lord. She is "the daughter of the commandment" who loves the Lord God with all her heart, with all her soul, and with all her mind and strength (Mark 12.30).
This is the response that God expects when he reveals himself to us. We need to allow God to make of our hearts a holy temple - a meeting place where we can find our hidden Jesus in times of trouble and in moments of joy.
Like Mary, we are invited to contemplate his divine truths and store them up in our hearts. She shows us how to embrace the mysteries of God, always with the obedience of faith seeking understanding.
When we actively search for the truth in all the events of our lives, we can say to our Mother, "Draw me after you, let us make haste. The king has brought me into his chambers" (Song of Songs 1.4).
If we offer this prayer through the intercession of Mary, our king will continue to draw us into the depths of Mary's Immaculate Heart. Hidden and revealed in the unshakeable faith of a mother's heart — behold, here is our Lord and Saviour.
(Anne Marie Posella is a graduate theology student at Catholic Distance University. She educates her children at home and works as an instructor at St. Clair College in Chatham, Ont.)