The story from the Gospel of St. Luke that we read this morning is about an incident from Jesus’ youth and is unique in the canonical gospel tradition. It presents Jesus in the role of the faithful Jewish boy, raised in the traditions of Israel, and fulfilling all that the law requires. With this episode, the two chapters which we call the infancy narrative end just as they began, in the setting of the Jerusalem temple. However, it is Jesus who is found in the Temple rather than Zechariah.
However, there is one detail in the story that makes it proleptic as well as historical. St. Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the Temple after three days. We are immediately thrown into the final chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel in which St. Luke tells us of another three day period that ends with Jesus’ rising from the dead.
The fact that Jesus seems to be lost in today’s Gospel can be easily explained by the cultural norms of the extended family that was typical in first century Israel. The Jews traveled in caravans when they went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. A caravan from Nazareth to Jerusalem would have been made up of the relatives and neighbors of Mary and Joseph.
However, through this story St. Luke prepares us for another episode in Jesus’ life when he lay for three days in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. While the emotions portrayed in this story are intense, they would be completely overshadowed by Mary’s emotions after witnessing his execution.
Today’s memorial was created in response to the request made by the Blessed Mother when she appeared to the three shepherds of Fatima. In that apparition, she asked that devotion to her Immaculate Heart be cultivated and promoted. Honoring the Immaculate Heart of Mary urges us to make our hearts truly more like the heart of Jesus, her son; i.e. permeated by love, compassion, and forgiveness, attributes which humanize and warm our relationships with all people.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.