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Our Lady of the Rosary - Marian Retreat

Joyful Mysteries

Christ Being Found in the Temple

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Fifth Joyful Mystery - Christ’s being found in the Temple. This Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary is a mixture of joy and sorrow. You might say it is the link that joins the Joyful Mysteries with the Sorrowful Mysteries that are to follow. It is also the last mystery of Christ’s hidden life before He began His public ministry at the age of thirty. What I’d thought I ‘d do is first review each detail which occasioned Christ’s going to the Temple with Mary and Joseph and then being found there three days later.

Ten Elements in the Sequence of Events

With the completion of his twelfth year a young Jewish boy - better with the completion of his thirteenth year - a young Jewish boy became what they called and is now called ‘a son of the law.’ This meant that after his thirteenth birthday he became obliged to observe all (and there are many) of the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law. Jewish parents wanted to familiarize their sons before they reached legal maturity. And for a year of two before his thirteenth birthday, they would give instructions to the boy and even take him to the Temple which was, for the Jews, until the destruction of Jerusalem. The Temple was the center of Mosaic observance. That is why Mary and Joseph took Jesus, as we’re told by St. Luke, to the Temple with them when He was twelve years old. I count ten elements in the sequence of events that constitute this Fifth Joyful Mystery.

They Were Astonished at the Depth of His Understanding

First, at the age of twelve Jesus goes to the Temple in Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph. Second, after the required days of worshipping at the Temple were finished, Mary and Joseph started back to Nazareth with the caravan but Jesus was not with them. That was not unusual, for the adults to be separated from the children. Mary and Joseph were already one day on route when they realized Jesus was nowhere to be found. So, they left the caravan - we’re not told how they got back to Jerusalem, most likely on foot. They reached Jerusalem. It took three days all told. Perhaps much of those three days were spent in getting back to Jerusalem. Finally, they went to the Temple and found Him. Found Him in the midst of Rabbi’s, the official teachers of the Jewish people. And they saw Him listening to the Rabbi’s and asking them questions. We should say that normally the Rabbi’s would ask the questions. These teachers or Rabbi’s, the learned teachers of the Mosaic Law we are told by Luke, were astonished at the depth of understanding that He had of the law. And we may be sure that the depth of understanding was not only the facts of the law - the precise prescriptions, hundreds of them - but the meaning behind the prescriptions and then, also, when they asked Him questions, the answers He gave. Needless to say, Mary and Joseph were very happy but Luke adds a second time the verb, they were amazed, astonished, happy to find Him but amazed to find Him in this situation and we may be sure they stood for awhile at the door watching and listening. Needless to say this, shall we call it exhibition of Wisdom, Jesus was not manifesting back in Nazareth?

Faith Is What God Has Revealed That We Do Not Comprehend But Accept

This is Mary’s dialogue with Jesus: Two statements she told Him, “Son, why have You done this to us?” And then she added, “Your father and I have been searching for You in sorrow.” Every word, both in the question and the statement of Mary is crucial. Evidently Mary, though she was told by the Angel that she was “full of grace,” Mary had to believe. And what we believe, we do not comprehend. There are a dozen standard definitions of faith. This is one that applies here. Faith is the acceptance by the mind what God has revealed that we do not comprehend. But then the statement, Your father and I, in the public eye for all practical purposes Joseph was what we’ve coined the word the putative father of Jesus. It was the right thing to say for Mary under those circumstances: We’ve been looking for You, in sorrow.

Mary and Joseph Did Not Fully Understand

Then Christ’s answer to His Mother: Again He began with a question, “How is it that you were looking for me?” He knew how many times later on in His public ministry Jesus would ask questions and it will bring out some Truth that He wanted to communicate. Then His affirmative statement: “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business”, one translation. “That I must attend to My Father’s affairs”, another translation. And any good version of the Gospels Mary’s statement, “Your father and I”, the father is always lower-cased. In every good translation Christ’s statement, “Did you not know I should be about My Father’s business”, “Father’s” is always capitalized. Mary and Joseph did not understand - meaning they did not fully understand. That’s the meaning of comprehension. We are to make sense of what we believe. We are to have some understanding and indeed we are to grow in our grasping of what we believe but all eternity will be too short to fully understand, otherwise known as comprehend. Mary and Joseph did not fully, really understand what Jesus meant but having arrived there, having revealed what He wanted to reveal, Jesus got up and went back with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth. And Luke adds, “He went back with them to Nazareth and was subject to them.” The studied contrast between the freedom He exercised in separating Himself from them, even without their knowledge not to say their consent but then He had another mystery to reveal. Having spent three days in revealing one mystery, He would then spend another eighteen years teaching a different mystery.

Mary Kept All These Things in Her Heart

Finally Luke concludes and this is the curtain that the Holy Spirit draws on Christ’s Hidden Life. Having said, this is St. Luke, that Mary kept all these things carefully (he notes) in her heart, the Evangelist adds, “Having reached Nazareth, Jesus grew (mysterious words) grew in wisdom, age and grace before God and men.” So far the historic facts of what we identify as the Fifth Joyful Mystery.

Given the sheer massive quantity of revealed Truth contained in these verses of St. Luke’s Gospel, I think it is well to choose certain mysteries that bear special emphasis. What I say (gee Father you could keep it down) I end up with ten what we’ll boil down as we go along.

Nothing Is More Important Than Prayer in Our Lives

Number one. This is the only event in Christ’s thirty years of Hidden Life, as recorded in the Gospels that Christ publicly manifested Himself. And realizing that the Holy Spirit in inspiring the Sacred Scriptures not only teaches us by what the Scriptures say but teaches us by what the Scriptures do not say! Three days of public manifestation out of thirty years - that’s a pretty small fraction! Evidently, the Holy Spirit wants some very profound truths to teach us. Thus, the whole of Christ’s Infancy, His Childhood, His Adolescence, His young Adulthood are undescribed in the Gospels. Whatever else, whatever else God wants to teach us, it is the supreme value of a hidden life. Hidden from whom? Hidden from human beings but not hidden from whom? Not hidden from God!

Over the years giving conferences, retreats, counsel to contemplatives, I tell them on sheer mathematical grounds Christ taught the dignity and sublimity of a contemplative life, to coin a word, to the nth degree. Indeed, even the three more or less years of His public ministry we’re told He would spend whole nights in prayer. Nothing, nothing, nothing we can do, nothing is more important in our lives than prayer. Nothing! Indeed, everything else takes its value from prayer. So then we’ve got a number of questions.

This is number three: Why should this one episode alone be recorded?

Fourth: Why did Jesus not tell Mary and Joseph that He wanted to stay in Jerusalem? He didn’t.

Fifth: Why was He, of all places He might have been, why was He in the company of the learned teachers in the Temple? And we may be sure He made sure that Mary and Joseph would come upon Him precisely at the time when He was surrounded by these Rabbis? We may piously add with gaping mouths. Who on earth is this Jesus? A better question would have been, Who from Heaven is this Jesus?

Sixth: Why did He allow Mary and Joseph to search for Him in sorrow for three days?

Seven: Why when Mary asked Him, did He give the answer that He did?

Number eight: Why did Jesus not explain to His Mother what He meant?

Ninth: Why, once He engaged in that dialogue with His Mother, did He promptly go with them, that’s with Mary and Joseph back to Nazareth?

And finally: Why, having left the Temple and returned to Nazareth, did He remain subject to them where He grew in wisdom, age and grace, not only for human beings but indeed, before God?

Five Areas of Special Interpretation

Now some explanation. We have to keep this meditation from becoming (pardon me) another marathon. I thought I’d reduce the areas I think call for special interpretation to five. First; Why did Jesus remain behind in Jerusalem without telling Mary and Joseph? Why did He allow them to suffer the anguish of losing Him? Why did He give His Mother the answer that He made? Why did Mary and Joseph not understand what He said? And then, why did He return to Nazareth there to be subject to Mary and Joseph?

Each of these five whys deserves a library of exposition in all five areas deeply and intimately touch our own personal spiritual lives.

He Wanted to Test Their Faith

Number one: Separation. Christ chose to be separated from Mary and Joseph for three days. Why? He wanted to test their Faith. Faith is proved by being tried. Christ wants to make Mary and Joseph realize that separation from those that we love is part of our human existence. He, especially, and this first why is the reason for all the other whys: He wanted to show them that although He was human; He was also much more!

Suffering as Separation

Second area of reflection: Suffering as separation. Christ was teaching, teaching not only His Mother and Joseph: Christ, in the Fifth Joyful Mystery, is teaching us that to do God’s Will we must expect and even choose separation from those we love. Oh, I can be eloquent about this statement. If we’re really intent on doing God’s Will, it is simply part of doing God’s Will. We must, I repeat, not only expect but choose to be separated from those whom we love. I’ve got three, six just examples of separation in doing God’s Will.

Separation by Death

Separation, by the death of the one we love. My mother just lived to see me ordained; the one Mass I wept through from the first blessing of the casket in the vestibule till the final blessing in the cemetery. I didn’t realize I had that many tears in my tear ducts. The sorrow, which is God’s Will, brought on by the death of someone we love. All of this is planned; can you imagine by some kind of impossible calculation. It would be tragic that every member of the family would die at the same time. That would be the end of the human race. Separation from those we love is an essential part of God’s Providence and an indispensable part of our showing our love for God.

Separation by Sickness

Separation by sickness of the one we love. Confinement, maybe for years.

Separation by Necessity

Separation, I use the word by necessity from the ones we love. There’s a young couple, they’re still very young, five children, the sixth on the way: I baptized the fifth one, Dominic. The father said, “Father, the boy was born just a few days late. If he’d been born on July 31st, he would be Ignatius. He was born on the feast of St. Dominic. So I had no choice, Dominic, I baptize you. To raise that kind of a family and they want more! Necessity to support that growing family, there must be separation, especially by the father from the family, twelve the wife tells me, sometimes fourteen hours a day. And our modern, materialistic society couldn’t care less - money, mazuma.

Separation by Vocation

Separation by vocation from those whom we love: The vocation of marriage. And I’m talking to the right audience, separation by the vocation of the consecrated life. I left an ailing, widowed mother - the only child she ever had. After a couple months in the novitiate when I woke up, “Hardon, what did you do?” I scribbled a letter to the priest, the Jesuit that helped me find my vocation while I finished college. I told him; I made a mistake, this is not rational leaving my ailing, widowed mother - had to work everyday to support the two of us and then herself. I think I have his answer back, somewhere in my files. “Dear John, you idiot (exclamation mark), You thought you had a vocation. Very well, Trust God to take care of your mother.” - More bawling out for three paragraphs - “Sincerely yours, Clifford LeMay, S.J.” Separation by vocation - it’s real.

Separation by Misunderstanding

Separation by misunderstanding. As you know two bodies can be in the same, same room, same family, same community but they can be separated in spirit by misunderstanding.

Suffering by Estrangement

And perhaps the hardest of all, separation by estrangement. All of this and more Christ wanted to teach us in allowing Mary and Joseph to suffer because doing His Father’s Will, He was separated from them.

Jesus’ First Profession of His Divinity

Third crucial mystery: Christ’s answer to Mary. The first thing to note is that He did not apologize. In fact, He didn’t even begin by giving her an explanation. His answer was question. He asked her if she did not realize that He had to be engaged in HIS (and now caps) FATHER’S BUSINESS. Joseph was, as we know, Christ’s natural Father. I have to repeat the question. Did Jesus have a natural father? Yes! Yes! Because CHRIST had a Divine Nature, HE was The ETERNAL SON of the ETERNAL FATHER. Mary had just said, “Your father, your father and I have sought You, sorrowing.” Mary used a legalism. She knew she did not conceive or give birth to Jesus where Joseph was the natural human father of her Son. Now the center piece of this mystery: What Jesus told Mary was His first profession of His Divinity. Eighteen from every possible angle, in every conceivable

Human expression, Christ would make clear to His contemporaries, “The Father and I are One,” and then after His Resurrection allow the once-doubting Thomas, we may sure, to fall down on his knees and in front of this Man say, “My Lord and My God.

His Real Father Was the First Person of the Blessed Trinity

But Jesus wanted to profess Who He really was. What He was really two things: He was really human, had a real Mother. He was also really God. He also had a real Father. Ah! But His real Father was the First Person of the Blessed Trinity. I repeat: For nineteen hundred years the Church has interpreted this Fifth Joyful Mystery as Christ’s Profession of His Divinity. And He made the Profession to His Mother. Christ’s mission (we’re still on mystery number three, Christ’s answer to His Mother). Christ wanted to make very plain not just to Mary and Joseph but to us that His Mission was, first and primarily, to do what His heavenly Father wanted, even though in the process He would be misunderstood, let’s better say not be understood by those especially whom He most loved.

Our One Task in Life Is to Do the Will of God Our Father

Applying this to our self, our main task in life (drop the word main), our one task in life is to do the Will of God who is Our Father in Heaven. I can say my notes tell me to tell you this may mean (change the may) this will mean causing pain. Causing pain to whom? To our parents, to our relatives, to our friends and this, I don’t hesitate saying, is one of the most difficult responsibilities of our life. And for many of us and I include myself, may be our hardest test of Faith. The last ones on earth that we want to cause pain to is those whom we love. Does that make sense? Yet, and what an adversative that is! Yet, if we want to be really, truly, fully, constantly faithful to the Will of Our Father in Heaven, we better resign ourselves. We don’t want to cause the pain but pain will inevitably result, inevitably and it may be to those we most love on earth, if we want to do the Will of Our Father in Heaven. Oh, how autobiographical I could be!

Our Lady Had to Grow in Faith through Suffering

We go on the Fourth Mystery on which we want to briefly meditate: Mary not understanding. The word understanding should be, not fully understanding, not comprehending. Whatever else we know, whatever else we think about as we say the Rosary, let’s not forget that Mary had to live by Faith. Unlike Her Divine Son, She did not have the Beatific Vision which we believe Christ possessed. Being the Living Son of the Living God (this is Christ) He did not need to believe, He saw. Mary did not see, she had to believe and how this needs to be said! And if there’s one thing we should learn from Our Lady, she had to grow in Faith through suffering. I would talk to you for the next ten years and I could not tell you a more valuable principle of the spiritual life than this: We grow in Faith mainly through suffering. This is not some kind of spiritual alchemy or supernatural magic. Mere suffering, mere pain will not increase Our Faith. It is the suffering indeed, ah, but then we must in Faith see God in the pain. See God behind the pain. See God, how we have to say this, as the first and final cause of the pain. First, because except for Him either we wouldn’t be or the person or the thing causing the pain wouldn’t be. And final cause that is why God, listen, wants, wants us to experience pain. So that we might grow, grow in the spiritual life and the foundation of the spiritual life is Faith!

There Is Timing to God’s Will

Fifth Mystery: Jesus returned to Nazareth. There is no question about His making any objections He could have said and we’re sure had He said, Luke would have recorded it. Tradition tells us much of Luke’s Gospel especially that having to do with Our Lady, was told him by Mary. He might have said, well, Mother and Joseph since you’re here, keep yourself comfortable. I’d like to stay in Jerusalem for another two weeks. You may be sure that those Rabbi’s needed all that Christ could give them. But no, He got up, bowed to the Rabbi’s, smiled no doubt, and went off back to Nazareth where we’re told He was subject to His two creatures, Mary and Joseph. We’ve talked this before; we’ll come back to it again. There is a timing to God’s Will. Again we can repeat: God operates on a schedule. There’s a time for this and there’s a time for that. It was God’s Will, His Father’s Will that He remain separated for some time from Mary and Joseph though doing His Father’s Will caused Him sorrow but He was separated. It was now God’s Will that He go back with them so He didn’t (and we know) reluctantly go back with them. It was God’s Will!

The Only True Joy in Life Is Doing God’s Will

The only true joy and satisfaction we should find in life is in doing God’s Will. Ah, but my friends and this is why, incidentally, we’re making this retreat: Our first duty in life is to find out what is God’s Will. What does God want me to do? How does God want me to do it? Listen! How long does God want me to do this? And then as Ignatius told us, at the sound of the bell (this is St. Ignatius), at the sound of the bell, we must even leave the letter of the alphabet unfinished. I’m writing a letter, I’m on the word “little”. I finish the word “little” but I didn’t cross the “t’s” - leave the “t’s” uncrossed. But then, the Faith we need to see that God’s Will never changes. God has only one Will in our regard, that we might conform our will with His! God does not change but He knows us. How well He knows us! He tells us now to do this and now to do that and if I continue doing this when it’s God’s Will that I do that - I’m not conforming to the Will of God. Is this God changing? Nonsense! What He wants us to do is to keep - what word shall I use - adapting, adjusting our will to the Will of God. A minute before He wanted me to do this, now He wants me to do that. And leave it to God. It may be a minute later, He will want me to do something else. And living in a community, let me tell you, God’s manifest Will in our regard, God’s Will does not change but His demand that we change and not be reluctant to let go of “A” because now God wants me to do “B”. Am I clear? God’s Will makes demands on a constant change in our wills in order to conform ourselves to Him.

Christ Lived a Hidden Life

I’ve got one more observation on Jesus return to Nazareth. His twelve years before and His eighteen years after this Fifth Joyful Mystery, Christ lived a Hidden Life. He is telling us even on sheer mathematical proportion that what God most wants from us is a life of prayer and obedience. And Christ did not have to do this. He was the Living God in human form but we need it, if we’re going to have any influence over souls. We will be only as effective in the hands of God in becoming channels of grace to others as we are men and women of hidden, humble, submissive prayer.


Dear Jesus, teach us, O teach us the meaning of the mystery of this Fifth Decade of the Rosary so that following Your example we might become worthy instruments in Your hands in bringing with us into Heaven those You want us to bring there through our own hidden, humble prayerful life here on earth. Amen. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Copyright © 1998 by Inter Mirifica

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