Grace: To have an intimate knowledge of the Lord, to love him more devotedly, and to follow him more whole-heartedly.
Text for Prayer: Lk 2:41-52
Reflection: Today’s passage on the finding of Jesus in the temple might raise some prickly questions for us. When we first read Jesus’s response to his mother’s question of “Son, why have you treated us so?” we might ask whether Jesus is treating his human parents unfairly. How could a mother not worry about a son who is missing for three days? Why couldn’t Jesus have told his parents that he needed to spend time in his Heavenly Father’s house? However, this passage contains some pretty profound insights into Jesus’s identity as both the Son of God and the Son of Mary, and it hopefully helps us to understand our own relationship to God and Mary as well.
The fact that Jesus goes up to the Temple each year for the Feast of Passover shows that he is obedient to the Law of Moses. As a devout Jew, he fulfills the obligations of his religion and subjects himself to its precepts, even though he is the Son of God. The fact that Jesus leaves the temple to go home with his parents shows that he ultimately does subject himself to their discipline. Though God, he humbles himself to be obedient to his human parents and conforms his adolescent life to their will. However, Jesus also says that he “must be in [his] Father’s house.” In this way, Jesus maintains the primacy of his obedience to his Father’s will. While obedient to both Law and mother, Jesus is first and foremost the Son of the Father and the one who will ultimately say, “Thy will be done” on Calvary.
The message of this three-fold obedience of Jesus should give us pause, for Jesus models for us Christians precisely how we are to conform our will to not only the law of our religion and the discipline of our (often less than perfect) parents but ultimately to the will of God. This can sometimes put us in a predicament when we must choose between the good of following the law and fulfilling familial obligations and the good that is God’s will for us in our lives. How can we choose between two good things?
In his post on this topic two years ago, David Paternostro says,
St. Ignatius did not just want people to be able to choose good over evil. He recognized that a person can be presented with two good options that are not compatible with each other—the life of a husband and the life of a monk, for instance. Ignatius is very concerned that a person chooses not just what is good, but what is best. He shows this concern when speaking about the magis. Magis is a Latin word that can translate to “the greater good.” There is another Latin word, satis, that can mean “what is good enough.” These words are the origin for “magnificent” and “satisfactory,” respectively. So another way to think about it when St. Ignatius says to strive for the magis is to work for that which is magnificently good, instead of that which is satisfactorily good.
For Jesus, being in the temple is the greatest good, for Jerusalem is where he will ultimately fulfill the will of his Father that he must die on the Cross. But this will is not to be carried out at this time, and Jesus thus obediently returns to Nazareth with his parents to continue his long preparation for his Paschal mission.
The close of the passage mentions how Mary “ponders these things in her heart.” Mary does not condemn her son’s actions as wrong or complain about how her Son’s obedience to the Father has caused her such anxiety and heartache. Instead, she ponders how this might be that Jesus should so perfectly conform his will to that which is greater. She ponders the greatness of the obedience of her son, and she models for us what we should perhaps do when we are confounded by the ways of God. Mary ultimately conforms not only her will but also her understanding to her son, who remains obedient to the will of his Father in Heaven.
Questions: Do I conform my own will to the Law of my parents in faith and the precepts of my religion? When have I had to choose between two good things? What motivated my choice? How does this motivation compare with Jesus’ motivation for staying in the temple?