Question

Dear Father,

I have a few questions about a passage in the Gospels that interests me in a particular way, and brings me questions without answers. It is about the finding of Jesus in the temple. I read the answers you gave to other readers over the years, but I was wondering if I can still ask you further questions.

I read the answer about the interrogation that was done to 12-year-olds to initiate them into adulthood. But Jesus, a 12-year-old boy, wanders alone in a big city for three days. Where did he stay? Who hosted him, gave him food, a place where to sleep? What did he say about himself to those who hosted him?

Jesus asked his parents: “Why were you searching for me?” (…) “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”. Did they already know that he had to deal with his Father’s affairs? Mary knew that he was the “Son of the Most High”. All of this makes me think about the apocryphal gospels, where it is reported that Jesus already manifested in private to his parents during childhood. The encyclical Mystici Corporis states that Jesus immediately knew he was God, but did his parents know it? Should they have known to the point of not having to worry about his disappearance?

Further in this passage of the gospel is written that “they did not understand”, and that “Jesus followed them and was subject to them”. Even though Jesus was self-aware that he is God, he was still a child who was learning from his parents how to live. Could it be that, in a manner appropriate to his age, Jesus was trying to behave accordingly to his divinity? Could Mary’s “non-understanding” be interpreted as a way through which Jesus learned the truth about how he himself should manifest his divinity, and put it into practice through obedience to his Mother? (Joseph was present, but he let Mary speak, perhaps he sensed that the Mother had to understand the realities of Jesus more than him?).

This would also be a great example of humility from God, who accepted the truth about himself, as a man, from the humble Mary. Reading that Jesus was submissive to Joseph and Mary should answer many who do not want to learn about obedience and submission today!

I thank you infinitely for your attention and if you will answer me, or will indicate me texts where I could learn more.

God bless you immensely for your ministry. A warm greeting,

Stefano


The priest’s reply

Dear Stefano,

1. The interrogation the boys underwent at the age of 12 at the  temple was generally short.

For Jesus, however, things went differently. In fact, he answered the Doctors in such a profound way that a desire for further study inflamed them, who in turn started to ask him further questions to find out more.

This is what emerges from the Gospel: “After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Lk 2:46).

2. The sacred text goes on and says: “And all who heard him were full of amazement at his intelligence and his answers” (Lk 2:47).

We do not know where the Lord stayed in those days. However, it was Easter, the Jews residing in Jerusalem gladly gave hospitality to the pilgrims who came for the celebration from all parts of Palestine and from the diaspora.

It is plausible that Jesus asked someone for hospitality, perhaps the Doctors, given the acuteness of his intelligence and his knowledge, did not let it slip away, but invited him to stay among them.

This would be the reason for the extension of his stay in Jerusalem.

3. Jesus’ parents understood very well who the Father to whom Jesus referred was when he said: “You did not know that I must take care of my Father’s things?”

Mary knew very well who Jesus was: “the Son of the Most High”, as you yourself have recalled.

Even Saint Joseph knew this because the Angel had told him: “He comes to forgive his people their sins” (Mt 1:21). Saint Joseph knew well that only God remits sins, and that the people the Angel speaks about is the People of God.

4. What then did they not understand?

Jesus said: “Did you not know that I must take care of my Father’s things”, that is, that he must stay in His house?

M-J. Lagrange adds a further explanation: “A very pious young Israelite could have called the temple the house of the God of Israel our father and everyone would have understood, but in the thought of St. Luke, Jesus spoke of his Father in a very particular way and expressed himself as an only child. With this he was a prelude to the gospel; but Mary, who knew its origin, could also wonder why he had caused that wound to her heart … “(The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 47).

5. I do not believe, however, that your interpretation – however ingenious – is plausible.It would sound like a reproach that Our Lady makes to Jesus because he should have learned from her how to manifest his divinity.

Our Lady does not reproach. She manifested her feelings in the excess of the pain she and Saint Joseph experienced.

At that point, she did not understand.

But in a future day she will understand, says St. Charles Borromeo, the day Jesus will walk again through the same streets of Jerusalem, and She will experience an even more excruciating pain for another absence of the same duration (three days), that of His Passion and Death.

I thank you for the question, I remind you to the Lord and I bless you.

Father Angelo

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