The episode of the finding of the young Jesus in the temple sheds light
on Mary’s growing participation in the life and work of her divine Son
"At the temple in Jerusalem, in this prelude to his saving
mission, Jesus associates his Mother with himself; no longer is she
merely the One who gave him birth, but the Woman who through her own
obedience to the Father's plan, can co-operate in the mystery of
Redemption", the Holy Father said at the General Audience of
Wednesday, 15 January, as he reflected on the finding of Jesus in the
temple. Here is a translation of his catechesis, which was the 42nd in
the series on the Blessed Mother and was given in Italian.
1. The Evangelist Luke describes the young Jesus' pilgrimage to the
temple in Jerusalem as the last episode of the infancy narrative, before
the start of John the Baptist's preaching. It is an usual occasion which
sheds light on the long years of his hidden life in Nazareth.
On this occasion, with his strong personality Jesus reveals that he
is aware of his mission, giving to this second "entry" into
his "Father's house" the meaning of his total gift of self to
God which had already marked his presentation in the temple.
This passage seems to contrast with Luke's note that Jesus was
obedient to Joseph and Mary (cf. 2:51). But, if one looks closely, here
he seems to put himself in a conscious and almost deliberate antithesis
to his normal state as son, unexpectedly causing a definite separation
from Mary and Joseph. As his rule of conduct, Jesus states that he
belongs only to the Father and does not mention the ties to his earthly
Jesus' behaviour seemed very unusual
2. Through this episode, Jesus prepares his Mother for the mystery of
the Redemption. During those three dramatic days when the Son withdraws
from them to stay in the temple, Mary and Joseph experience an
anticipation of the triduum of his Passion, Death and Resurrection.
Letting his Mother and Joseph depart for Galilee without telling them
of his intention to stay behind in Jerusalem, Jesus brings them into the
mystery of that suffering which leads to joy, anticipating what he would
later accomplish with his disciples through the announcement of his
According to Luke's account, on the return journey to Nazareth Mary
and Joseph, after a day's traveling, are worried and anguished over the
fate of the Child Jesus. They look for him in vain among their relatives
and acquaintances. Returning to Jerusalem and finding him in the temple,
they are astonished to see him "sitting among the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions" (Lk 2:46). His
behaviour seems most unusual. Certainly for his parents, finding him on
the third day means discovering another aspect of his person and his
He takes the role of teacher, as he will later do in his public life,
speaking words that arouse admiration: "And all who heard him were
astounded at his understanding and his answers" (2:47). Revealing a
wisdom that amazes his listeners, he begins to practise the art of
dialogue that will be a characteristic of his saving mission.
His Mother asked Jesus: "Son, why have you treated us so?
Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously" (Lk
2:48). Here we can discern an echo of the "whys" asked by so
many mothers about the suffering their children cause them, as well as
the questions welling up in the heart of every man and woman in times of
3. Jesus' reply, in the form of a question, is highly significant:
"How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in
my Father's house?" (Lk 2:49).
With this response, he discloses the mystery of his person to Mary
and Joseph in an unexpected, unforeseen way, inviting them to go beyond
appearances and unfolding before them new horizons for his future.
In his reply to his anguished Mother, the Son immediately reveals the
reason for his behaviour. Mary had said: "Your father",
indicating Joseph; Jesus replies: "My Father", meaning the
Referring to his divine origin, he does not so much want to state
that the temple, his Father's house, is the natural "place"
for his presence, as that he must be concerned about all that regards
his Father and his plan. He means to stress that his Father's will is
the only norm requiring his obedience.
This reference to his total dedication to God's plan is highlighted
in the Gospel text by the words: "I must be", which will later
appear in his prediction of the Passion (cf. Mk 8:31).
His parents then are asked to let him go and carry out his mission
wherever the heavenly Father will lead him.
4. The Evangelist comments: "And they did not understand the
saying which he spoke to them" (Lk 2:50).
Mary and Joseph do not perceive the sense of his answer, nor the way
(apparently a rejection) he reacts to their parental concern. With this
attitude, Jesus intends to reveal the mysterious aspects of his intimacy
with the Father, aspects which Mary intuits without knowing how to
associate them with the trial she is undergoing.
Mary attains new dimension in work of salvation
Luke's words teach us how Mary lives this truly unusual episode in
the depths of her being. She "kept all these things in her
heart" (Lk 2:51). The Mother of Jesus associates these events with
the mystery of her Son, revealed to her at the Annunciation, and ponders
them in the silence of contemplation, offering her co-operation in the
spirit of a renewed "fiat".
In this way the first link is forged in a chain of events that will
gradually lead Mary beyond the natural role deriving from her
motherhood, to put herself at the service of her divine Son's mission.
At the temple in Jerusalem, in this prelude to his saving mission,
Jesus associates his Mother with himself; no longer is she merely the
One who gave him birth, but the Woman who, through her own obedience to
the Father's plan, can co-operate in the mystery of Redemption.
Thus keeping in her heart an event so charged with meaning, Mary
attains a new dimension of her co-operation in salvation.