The joy of seeking Jesus

by | Aug 19, 2023 | Presence

Seek and you shall find, Jesus tells us (Matthew 7:7). The fifth joyful mystery of the rosary is the finding of 12-year-old Jesus in the temple. The fruit of this mystery is the joy of finding Jesus. However, in the scripture regarding this event, we hear a lot about His parent’s angst from seeking Him. Where is the joy? 

Joseph had brought Mary and Jesus with him to perform his temple duty of Passover. This is one of the three main feasts for which men were to return to Jerusalem to celebrate. At its conclusion, the family travels an entire day before realizing Jesus was not with their relatives in the caravan. They returned to Jerusalem (another day’s journey) and spent three days looking for Him before finding Him in the temple. 

Can you imagine losing your child for several days? Mary responded as any mother would: 

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 looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48)

Some older bible translations state “Your father and I have sought thee sorrowing”. Certainly, it can be seen as a precursor to the sorrow Mary will experience in Jesus’ passion and death. The esteemed 17th century spiritual director Rev. Grou[1] explains this event was intended to refine the purity of her love: “But perfect as was that love it stood in need of trial to refine its purity—to render it in a manner divine. It was requisite that she should gradually learn to love him less as her Son than as her God. The tie that bound her to Jesus was at once natural and supernatural; it was needful that she should soar above the claims of nature and cling to him by the spirit alone.” (p. 125). Similarly, God permits these sorrows in our relationships, both between husband and wife and between parent and child. Our initial love for the other becomes mixed with our fear and wounds along with the ‘purifying’ ways we behave towards one another. Our love of the other person must rise above sensible attractions so as to ‘spiritualize’ our affections. To learn to love them as God does, we must allow Him to purify our love. 

In our own relationships, too often we dwell on the angst and not the joy. Similarly, the risk in meditating on this passage is remaining focused on the angst. At first, we find comfort in placing ourselves with Mary and Joseph. We can relate to their anxiety and fear in this search for their precious child. But at some point, we, like they, must give up that angst so we can fully enjoy His presence. Can I take joy in finding Him in my life? In the small blessings of my day which I have overlooked? This is the grace of the present moment, where love abounds. 

Finally, it is important to also see this through God’s perspective. Jesus was never lost. Hence our bibles usually label this section as “The Boy Jesus in the Temple”, not the losing of Jesus nor the finding of Jesus. To be found one first must be lost, which Jesus was not. Yet from the perspective of Joseph and Mary, He was lost. Jesus shifted their paradigm to understand as God does, and they were “astonished”. With sincere reflection, we too can recount those perspective-bending situations or conversations when God shifted our paradigm. Our Father desires that, through prayer and examination, we grow to hand our angst over to Him so that He may replace it with His love. Once our eyes of faith are formed in love, our love for others is purified and grows to be like His own. 

Ladder by which we climb to the sublime.

Star by whose bright light we brave the night.

Mirror in which we see eternity.

Key that will unlock the house on the rock.

Tower by which we stand, strong in a strange land.

Rose in whose rustling stirred the eternal word.

Lady of quietness.

Queen of mysteries.

Remember us.

(Carolyn Humphries OCDS)


Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 😊


(Image by James Tissot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons) 



[1] Rev. Jean Nicholas Grou (1893) The Interior of Jesus and Mary, Vol. 1, 3rd ed. Chicago, IL: Benziger Bros.


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