Gift of the Holy Spirit:
Blessed are the sorrowing, they shall be consoled.
“Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to the 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. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking 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 searching for you in sorrow.” He said to them: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor with God and men.”
How often in life do we search for our loved ones in sorrow and yet, do not understand the meaning of our separation, suffering in endless searching? And how many times have we suffered this loss in sorrow without understanding God’s purpose or the redemptive value of this searching for a lost soul? And do we not feel at times that even God has abandoned us in our search and in our sorrow?
Mary and Joseph experienced this as they lost Jesus for three days, only to find Him in the Temple, attending to His Father’s affairs. This is an event in the life of the Holy Family that is especially poignant with both human and divine dimensions.
Twelve years is the age when Jewish boys are initiated into adulthood with a temple rite. Instead of this rite, the Scriptures recount the initiation of Jesus in the temple as an awakening of His destined role and His duties in His Father’s house. It is also an awakening for His loving parents.
On His twelfth year, His parents lose Jesus as they return from the annual pilgrimage to celebrate the Feast of the Passover. After searching for Him in sorrow for three days, they find Him in the temple with the doctors of the Jewish law, about His Father’s business. “All those who heard him were amazed at his intelligence and his answers”, the evangelist recounts.
His parents, seeing him in lively discussion of the teachings of the patriarchs and the prophets, are astonished but rather than celebrating His coming of age, they express their anxiety and sadness of not being aware of His whereabouts for three days, which prompts Jesus to reply, “Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?”, meaning “Do you not understand that this is what I was born for, to be attending to My Father’s affairs? Where else would I be but in My Father’s house?”
Both Mother and Son were seeking understanding and compassion from each other, the mother for her and Joseph’s searching in sorrow for three days, afraid that He might have fallen into the hands of brigands or some misfortune, and the Son pleading for His parents’ understanding of the priority of His heavenly Father’s entrusted mission.
The joy of the Holy Family, since their return from exile in Egypt, living together in holy poverty, in perfect loving grace, is almost like living in Paradise on earth. This event during their Passover pilgrimage brings them back to the reality of Jesus’ mission on earth.
At twelve, Jesus comes to a fuller understanding of His mission in accordance with His Father’s will. His parents would have to wait as He goes about His Father’s business.
But Mary and Joseph were unprepared for this sudden awakening and realization of their Son’s mission. In their tender love for Him, they can only try to understand with their hearts what He means by His words. Nor does Mary realize at this time that she is being given a foretaste of the three days after His death on the cross when Jesus would be lost to her and to the world. This would happen during His last Passover on earth when He himself will be the lamb slaughtered to take away our sins and provide us with His Precious Blood that would save us from the avenging angels of God. He will be the Paschal Lamb that we will consume as the Bread of Life.
When Jesus invokes the Name of His Father to the amazement of His parents, they keep their peace in the spirit of piety, treasuring these things in their hearts. Jesus, for His part, acknowledges their authority over Him and goes obediently with them, and He “progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.”
They treasure these things in their hearts. This kind of understanding is to the heart as knowledge is to the intellect. Understanding the sorrow of others leads one’s heart to compassion. Thus, blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted by Mary and Joseph whose compassionate hearts understand what it is to search and to suffer in silence.
There is another dimension to the spiritual Gift of Understanding, explained by Jesus in the parable of the sower. He said in Matthew 13:
“The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn to me – and I would heal them.”
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. … But as for what was sown on good soil this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundred fold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Joseph and Mary listen to the living word of Jesus and understand it ‘with their hearts’, thus they bear and yield fruit a thousand fold. It is this true understanding of the word of God with the heart that prepares the faithful for Christian witnessing in the face of persecution even unto martyrdom.
In the preceding mystery of the Flight to Egypt and the slaughter of the innocents, the Scriptural passage said in Ramah there was weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted. At that moment, in her grief, Rachel could not understand how God would allow her innocent children to be sacrificed by the sword of the tyrant Herod.
Today, we know that these innocents are the same cherubim, often depicted by painters, accompanying the Blessed Mother in heaven, forming the retinue of her official escort. Rachel is now comforted in her understanding of their martyrdom, rejoicing in her infant martyrs, the first to suffer persecution and shed blood for the Savior.
Blessed Joseph, whose sorrows are suffered in silence, grant that I may be blessed with the Spirit of Understanding, to understand with my heart the living word of Jesus and His will for me, and to bring comfort and compassion to those sorrowing, so that I too may be comforted in my own sorrows which I join with your own and with the Sorrowful Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Amen.
Our Father. Ten Hail Marys. Glory Be.