It is every parent’s nightmare to not know where their children are. We may have dropped off our daughter at a friend’s house and when we went back to pick her up she was not there. Panic and fear sets in. There is a deep hurt in our stomach. Adrenalin flows. We think frantically about where our child could possibly be.
Twelve year old Jesus was missing. Panic and fear struck the minds and heart of Mary and Joseph. They could not find him as they traveled back to Nazareth with their friends and relatives from celebrating the Passover in Jerusalem. We can just imagine Mary and Joseph asking, “Have you seen Jesus? When was the last time you saw him? Who was he with?” Such were the questions from a so-called “Jesus Alert” from the hearts of two heart-broken parents.
As I look back at my life, I could have easily been missing. When I was 12 years old, I took the public service bus on Friday afternoons to downtown St. Louis all by myself to my aunt and uncle’s steak restaurant where my mother worked. After eating a steak dinner, my mom gave me a dollar or two and I walked several blocks to a big drug store to play the pinball machine. At 9:00 p.m. I walked back to the restaurant just as my mother was closing the restaurant for the evening. In all those Fridays, no one ever bothered me, but I could have easily been missing as a twelve year old child.
Not finding Jesus among their friends and relatives, Mary and Joseph hurried back to Jerusalem to search for Jesus. Saint Luke tells us that they searched for Jesus for three days until they finally found him in the Temple discussing the Hebrew faith with the teachers of the day.
On the one hand Mary and Joseph were relieved that their son was safe, but on the other hand, Mary’s anger burst forth when she said to Jesus, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety?”
Already sensing his mission at an early age, Jesus said to his mother, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But according to Saint Luke, Mary and Joseph did not fully understand their son’s answer. Nonetheless, Jesus gave his parents much to think about. In fact, Saint Luke wrote that Mary “treasured all these things in her heart” (2:51), just like she treasured all those things the shepherds had told her when they came to worship her Son.
So now Jesus was safe. He was going about his Heavenly Father’s mission in the Temple. It was a holy place where he would one day return to teach and to drive out the “den of thieves” who forgot that the Temple was a “house of prayer.”
Throughout the Gospel of Luke we find Jesus in many places:
as a baby on a bed of hay in a humble stable;
in the Jordan River drenched from head to toe as John baptized him and God’s voice declared Jesus as his Son;
in the desert where the Holy Spirit led him for a time of fasting, prayer, and meditation;
on the pinnacle of the Temple where He resisted the temptation of the devil;
at Lake Gennesaret calling his first disciples;
on a mountaintop where he was transfigured in all of his end-time splendor;
at Lazarus’ tomb to raise him from the dead;
on a donkey riding triumphantly in Jerusalem as people shouted, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord;”
in the upper room eating the Passover meal with his disciples and transforming that meal into a foretaste of the feast to come;
at the Mount of Olives where a disciple betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver;
standing as an innocent man before the chief priest, Pilate, and Herod and facing condemnation;
on the cross dying for your sake, for mine, and for all of creation;
and with two disciples on the road to Emmaus where he opened the meaning of Scripture to them.
Jesus was with the lowly and the rich and powerful. He was in the busy marketplaces and in the lonely desert. He was on a hill outside of Jerusalem dying and buried in a dark, sealed tomb. He was alive again and in the presence of Mary Magdalene and the other disciples.
But where is Jesus today? Where can we find him?
We find Jesus:
with those who suffer from divorce, illness, or loss of a job;
with immigrants traveling to our border and looking for a better way of life;
with anxious parents whose children are missing and with children lost and alone.
Jesus is with all those who suffer to bring them consolation and peace.
We find Jesus:
at the joy of a wedding celebrating with the bride and groom;
at an anniversary party celebrating the gift of marriage;
at the embrace of a parent a child where love is shared.
Jesus is with all those who experience happiness in life to let them know these are moments of blessings from God.
We find Jesus:
in the words of Scripture for his word is truth;
in the bread and wine of Holy Communion where he gives us his own self;
in the fellowship of believers where joys and sorrows are shared.
Jesus is with us in those moments of inspiration lifting up our weary souls.
How sad it is when people cannot open their eyes and see Jesus in the midst of daily life. But we believe that Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us. And being God with us, Jesus finds us wherever we are to bless us with peace, joy, and hope. We believe that Jesus is not missing from our lives.
Thanks be to God.