By Sarah Streitwieser
The story of finding Jesus in the temple leads me to wonder about all of the other stories and intricacies of Jesus’s early life. What did the Holy Family’s experience when they lived in Egypt? Were their basic needs (food, shelter, and clothing) always easily attained, or did they struggle and sometimes go without? What would it be like to join the Holy Family for a “normal” day, or sit with them for a meal? How did they pray together, work together, and live together? Were Mary and Joseph’s parenting responsibilities and experience similar to other parents’?
For years I thought that lack of objective answers to these questions meant that they were not worth asking. But lately I find that I am able to draw nearer to Jesus and closer to Mary and Joseph, when I allow myself to wonder and imagine. Too often I have glossed over the particulars of their lives and forgotten their humanity and personhood. For it is people – actual humans like you and me – who must eat, sweat, toil, lose, laugh, and live. The Holy Family experienced all of these things similarly to us; they lived, died, rejoiced, grieved, loved, lost, and experienced.
Too often I have prayed the mystery of finding Jesus in the temple without first experiencing the loss of Him by His parents. Or, I have cloaked their personhood in a sort of unreasonable detachment that does not fully experience loss, pain, fatigue, or worry. Rather than gloss over what I do not know, I look to my own emotions. How would I feel if I lost my child for 3 days? How might Mary and Joseph’s experience be different from or similar to my own?
When Mary first finds Jesus she says of herself and Joseph, “Your Father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48, emphasis added). From this I assume that Mary and Joseph’s experience of losing and finding Jesus must not be entirely different than my own experience might be.
With Mary and Joseph seek to feel the full weight of loss, without glossing over feelings or letting holiness reduce humanity. Equate this to a personal experience of loss. Have you ever felt like you “lost” Jesus in your daily life? What was this experience like? How long did the season last, or is it still ongoing? In retrospect, do you see a purpose or cause for the “absence?”
Click the link below for more on Finding Jesus in the Temple. Remember to share your prayer experiences with your family. Come back next week when we will explore the Joy of Finding Jesus.