Grace: An intimate knowledge of our Lord, Who has become man for me, that I may love Him more and follow Him more closely.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 2: 40-50
Reflection: An 18-year-old boy, Paul, enters Notre Dame Cathedral on Christmas Day 1886: he is a bright non-believer. Hearing Vespers and taking in the architectural beauty of the cathedral, he leaves convinced not only of God’s existence, but that God had ordered the world and placed mankind at the center of it. The French poet, dramatist, and ambassador Paul Claudel’s (1868-1955) entire adult life was influenced by, and dedicated to, his Catholic faith. His own sister, Camille, was a famed sculptress who rejected the faith of their forbears for her entire life. Like Paul Claudel, Jesus’s life of faithful service to God – being “about my Father’s business” – starts in a temple of God, and would face rejection.
After reading of Jesus’ birth in Luke’s Gospel, we learn nothing of his childhood save that he grows in age, strength and wisdom. Like every good observant Jewish family, Mary and Joseph take the young Jesus every year up to Jerusalem for the days-long feast of Passover. And then Jesus turns twelve years old, and with God’s favor upon him (Lk 2:40), he decides to remain at the temple. Joseph and Mary set out to return to Nazareth in a caravan, unaware of their lost son.
Anyone who has been temporarily ‘lost’ or separated from a dear family member can surely related to the sense of panic and parental concern that Mary and Joseph must have felt: their beloved son is missing. They search for several days without any luck. All the while, Jesus sits patiently and attentively in the temple, asking the teachers questions and responding with wisdom beyond His years. His parents are frustrated but rejoice upon finding Him. Imagine losing your child or younger sibling for several days, and upon seeing him, he calmly explains to you, “I must be about my Father’s business.” Would this not strike you as unusual and off-putting?
In this pivotal passage, Jesus recognizes that His life is destined for things other than the ordinary. He speaks of God as His Father. His divine Sonship, and His obedience to God the Father’s will, eclipse His ties to His earthly family. Jesus begins His life of service to God the Father in the temple, where He surrounds Himself with things and people of God. Like Claudel, there is no looking back: His life henceforth is different, and He must be about His Father’s business, and no longer His own. But He does so with wisdom and God’s favor. We, too, must pray for this in order to discern what God the Father asks of us as a response in love. Let us keep in front of our eyes the First Principle and Foundation which Ignatius has already spelled out earlier in the Spiritual Exercises.
Questions: Using your faculties of memory, will, and understanding, imagine this scene from Jesus’ young life. What does it look like and call to mind from your own life? How does it, or Claudel’s conversion story, resonate with your faith life and the spaces that have cultivated prayer and greater dedication to God?