Emily | Catholic Poster Girl
I’m going to guess that Mary’s first thought here was whew.
Her second was probably: What sort of punishment can I give the Son of God?
OK, I’m guessing–and kidding–on that last one, although I’m sure that any other kid that disappeared for three days would get an, “I love you and you are so grounded!”
This is one of the mysteries that seem very relatable, almost modern, to us. Who hasn’t been in charge of children and suddenly, one was missing? The heart starts to pound, the breathing increases, panic sets in.
A few years ago, my aunt took me, my sister, and my two cousins to the water park for the day. She couldn’t stay, because she had a little boy at home and errands to run. So I was in charge of the three kids. This was before transplant, so breathing wasn’t all that great, and my swimming skills are OK, but not lifeguard worthy (My brother and I flunked swimming lessons because we couldn’t float. True story.). As the second-oldest cousin on my mom’s side of the family, I was often put in charge of the kids, on land or in water. Land, OK. Water made me nervous.
We found chairs and dropped our beach bags and towels over them. Before the kids could go in the water, I very firmly said, “I cannot swim that well. You are not to go out beyond the three foot section, especially when the waves are going, because I won’t be able to get you, and I don’t trust that the lifeguards will see you in the craziness. You will stay close, and you will stay where I can see you.”
The kids obeyed (my sister, a bit grudgingly, because she can swim, and very well). Of course, their safety was paramount, but also, I didn’t want to have to face my parents or my aunt if one of them drowned. (Yes, I do tend to think worst-case scenarios when I’m in charge of other people’s kids!)
We got through the day without incident. But every time those waves started, I was as alert as a Tijuana cab driver at a stop light.
Now, Mary and Joseph were traveling with a lot of people, so it made sense that Jesus was with someone in the family. That also happens with my family. “Where’s the baby?” “Oh, Aunt so-and-so took her out on the deck.” Even if you can’t see your kid, someone has them, and she’s OK. So Joseph and Mary probably just assumed that.
But then, they realized no one had him. Well, crap.
This isn’t losing a kid at the mall or the amusement park. This is losing a kid anywhere between where they were and Jerusalem. Three days ago. I bet they flew back to the city, panicking the entire time and thinking what ifs.
And there was twelve-year old Jesus–totally old enough to know better–in the temple, calmly engaging in discussion with the rabbis and other religious leaders.
“Son, why have you done this to us?” A perfectly valid question that Mary asks him. In other words: What were you THINKING?!?!?!
Jesus is very calm when he answers. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Jesus had faith: in his Father, and in his mother and his adoptive father, that they would find them. Jesus had to be in the temple, speaking with these learned men, preparing them for him when he would come so many years later and begin his public life. He also knew that his parents would find him, and take him home and all would be well.
But Mary and Joseph didn’t know that. Maybe they felt silly on the way back for worrying, Jesus being who he was. Maybe they felt a little chagrined at his cool confidence and steady answer. But I imagine what Mary felt was all-encompassing relief.
Like before, Mary trusted when she really had no idea of what was going to happen. She must have trusted that God wouldn’t let anything harm His son. But I’m sure there was still some worry. She was human, and a mother. But Jesus had total faith in her and Joseph. He knew they’d come for him.
God is like that lifeguard, or like me, standing at the water’s edge, watching those kids like a hawk. Jesus says that even a sparrow is accounted for before God. We have to have faith that God is protecting us, even when we seem lost, like Jesus did, and like his parents did. Because to God, we’re never lost.