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The Fifth Joyful Mystery: The Finding in the Temple

Reflections from Pope Francis on the Rosary in this Year of Saint Joseph

"Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it…. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:41-49)

From Pope Francis: Every child is the bearer of a unique mystery that can only be brought to light with the help of a father who respects that child’s freedom: a father who realizes that he is most a father and educator at the point when he becomes “useless,” when he sees that his child has become independent and can walk the paths of life unaccompanied. When he becomes like Joseph, who always knew that his child was not his own but had merely been entrusted to his care. In the end, this is what Jesus would have us understand when he says: “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (Mt 23:9). (Patris Corde)

Jesus, as the Creed reminds us, was begotten; and he was incarnated; but it is in Luke’s gospel account of the Fifth Joyful Mystery that we see his earthly parents being reminded that he was not only a child to be found, but a child who would always remain, to a significant degree, a sort of foundling: never only their own. He tells his father and mother that he has been independently attending to his father’s business, and in his father’s house.

In our simplicity we are aggravated by the story: how could the Genius of Love put his parents through the awful agony of disappearing for three days? Mary must have thought he was dead.

We of course see the symbolism, and literary analysts sniff the foreshadowing, but this was no symbolic or literary experience for Mary and Joseph – it was a parent’s worst nightmare. Did they sleep those intervening nights?

Did they at times mutually accuse?

Did Mary doubt the promises of Gabriel?

Did Joseph question his own initial bravery, 12 years prior, of going through with the marriage in the first place?

‘Child, why have you treated us like this?’

Mary remonstrated, and again, our faith of ages causes aggravation: how could the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, have so misunderstood her son?

Because she, and He, were not first and foremost literary figures,

and she was not living her life in the retrospect of history;

Mary was living her life, as everyone does, forwards;

and not even the most blessed will completely comprehend the mind of God

at every stage.

The Gospel writer, Luke, depicts the experiences of Jesus, his father and mother with immediacy and authenticity: the panic; the raw emotion when he was rediscovered; the irony, that the teachers are being taught by the tyke; the confusion.

But ultimately, Luke delivers the joy, so simply, so beautifully:

‘His mother treasured all these things in her heart.’

All these things.

The fear.

The relief.

The revelation among the teachers of her Son’s future glory.

The first taste of loss.

Peter Fleming

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