First Sunday after the Epiphany – The Finding in the Temple

Finding Jesus in the TempleThis day’s Gospel is especially adapted for children, who can draw from it, even in their humble way of thinking, many useful lessons. The law of Moses commanded every man of the Hebrew nation to go to the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover. When Jesus was twelve years old, having come to the use of reason according to human judgment, He went to Jerusalem with His parents. During the seven days of the feast they remained in the city; then they went back to Nazareth. In those days it was customary for those who attended the Passover to travel in separate bands; the men in one, the women in another, while the children could accompany either. Mary thought that Jesus was with Joseph, and Joseph thought He was with Mary, so, not at all uneasy, they journeyed homeward. When in the evening they came together at the khan, it became evident that the Child Jesus was lost or left in Jerusalem. Realize, if you can, the dreadful anguish of the heart of Mary at that time. To feel with her on this occasion, we should keep before our minds the tender love she bore Jesus.

My dear children, have you ever lost Jesus? Who knows how often? How many times have you ignominiously put Him out of your hearts by sin? You have brought the devil in with great pomp, and placed the demon on the throne which God should occupy. Mary and Joseph lost Our Lord Jesus without their fault; you lost Him because you made up your minds you would no longer keep company with Jesus. And when you had put away this beloved Jesus did you feel the loss? I know that young people who for the first time have lost Jesus by sin really feel that they have committed a horrible crime. They are tormented in mind and troubled within themselves, fearing, indeed, that the house may tumble over their heads and crush them, or that the earth may open and swallow them. They can find no rest, until they have recourse to confession and have driven out the- devil and reinstated Our Lord. But there are many youths, on the contrary, who do not feel the sting of conscience, or are surprised if they do; who never consider their horrible condition, and remain in it for months and years. Jesus is always near them, even when sent away, and looks to get back into the soul. His voice is not silent. He tells the poor sinner to open his heart, that He wants to enter there. But many have made a compact with the devil; they have sworn fealty to him and him they wish to serve and no other, because he gives them so many opportunities of gratifying their passions. These souls think they may let Jesus stand beside them, unnoticed, until the end of their lives and that then they will be converted. But they will not find Him then, because they have abused the grace of God.

If any of you have lost Our Lord, lose no time in finding Him at once. And you, my good young people, who have kept Our Lord in your hearts, 0, keep Him there with tenderness and love, as1 your greatest treasure; beg of Him most sincerely to keep you near Him. Cultivate in your souls the virtues of humility, obedience, purity, patience, mortification, and charity, that Jesus, charmed by these precious virtues, may remain with you always.

Mary and Joseph were very anxious and could not rest, but immediately returned to Jerusalem, knowing that nowhere but there and in the Temple would He be found. And there He was sitting, with the doctors attentive around Him: the Child was a prodigy, and excited their admiration; they listened to His explanations of the law, they asked Him questions, and clearly and authoritatively came back the answers. It was an admirable instruction that Our Lord gave them.

Mary and Joseph found Our Lord in the Temple. My dear young people, if your parents were to look for you during the day or night, would they find you in church or in good company, passing the time in pious conversation? Or would they find you with bad company, engaged in bad conversation, drinking, cursing, blaspheming, perhaps?

As soon as Mary saw Jesus she said to Him, “Son, why hast Thou done so to us? behold, Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing.” Our Lord answered her: “How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” This answer has a very deep meaning. Jesus was the Son of Mary and had come into the world to work for the honor of God His Father, and to do great things for His service.

The Child Jesus gives us a great example; He teaches us a great lesson: how we should act toward our parents. We must rather obey God than them, when there is question of the glory and honor of God. You must not be afraid to go to your parents, and lay before them the will of God as you understand it. Sometimes parents are very worldly, and enemies of God’s glory in regard to their children; they have views of the future for them which are not at all of God, and consequently should not be followed. There are parents who would rather see their children miserably unhappy for life than to see them become Religious dedicated to the service of God. For example, if any of you, my dear young people, feel that God calls you, that you are fitted for the religious life, that you have patience and fortitude to persevere, then follow the call from God. Many young men who have served the altar from early youth have felt that they had a vocation to consecrate themselves to God; but they resisted, remained in the world, fell into sin, and were lost to their faith. Some young women who have the vocation, instead of leaving the paternal roof and going into a convent, marry and live unhappily to the end of their days.

Had these young people consecrated themselves to God they would have done much for the glory of God, they would have been glorious instruments in promoting the interests of the Church. St. Augustine wrote to his most intimate friend, Lucius, begging him to embrace a religious life. “See what magnificent talents are going to waste on this foolish world! What a pity that such a bright intellect should amount to so very little. The devil has taken hold of you, and is going to ruin you. Supposing you found a chalice in the street; what would you do with it? you would bring it to the church because it belongs there. You have received golden talents from God; then say good-by to the devil, and attach yourself to God.”

St. Stanislaus Kostka considered it one of the greatest faults of his life, that, having felt for certain the call of God in his heart to leave the world, he waited for six months, at the risk of abusing the Lord’s friendship and the inestimable grace of the divine vocation.

Beg of God with heartfelt sincerity to let you know His holy will; pray to Mary, your angel guardian, and the saints of paradise, that they may intercede with the Holy Ghost for you, so that you may know your duty. Take counsel with your confessor, do not act foolishly, but when you are once certain of what you should do, cut off all ties, howsoever tender they be, and whatever else might place obstacles in the way. Turn a deaf ear to the devil, the world, and the flesh; be prompt as was the boy Samuel, who when God called him, jumped from bed several times, saying, “Here I am, Lord; you have called me.”

Jesus returned with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth, to the humble station that He held. The Gospel tells us in very short words what was His principal occupation during these years of His boyhood and youth; He obeyed His parents. You may see Him in the poor carpenter shop of Nazareth, with His saw and ax, working zealously, gaining His livelihood by the work of His hands until He reached His thirtieth year. He was God, that God who governs the heavens and the earth. O children, headstrong, wilful, and independent, learn from Jesus obedience to your parents. Do not cause them to weep over your bad lives, bringing their gray hairs in sorrow to the grave. Honor your parents, love them with a tender and true love, be their delight, and you will have such a reward from God as will astonish you.

Jesus grew in wisdom, in age, and grace before God and before man: He was wisdom itself, and how could He grow in wisdom? He was sanctity itself, and how could He be more holy? Still, adapting Himself to our humanity, with every day He manifested those qualities more and more, as suited His age. And people knew this Child and loved Him. What a grace it was for relatives and neighbors to be acquainted with the carpenter’s Son!

But let us make our reflections. Do our youths grow in piety, devotion, wisdom, and love of God as they advance in years? While children they are good and lovable, but as they reach the years of manhood or womanhood what becomes of their innocence, their obedience, their loveliness? They have made themselves the slaves of the devil; the devil does not practice such virtues and neither do they. What has become of your devotion? You used to say your beads, and pray morning and night, and had devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Do you still pray to her, or do you not consider this, as well as all other devotions, foolish practices? You had a very tender conscience as a child; the least sin would give you concern, you had much to confess; now it seems that sin does not disturb you, you are as gay after a great sin as if nothing had happened; you do not feel the qualms of conscience, you never go to confession any more. Why do you not act as formerly? The fact is, you have already partially lost your faith, and be assured it will not be long before you will have lost it altogether. Such then is the wickedness of your life. In a few years you will be hardened in sin, you will be worse than the Turks or the pagans. How many such youths are there? Who would believe it unless they had seen it with their own eyes? What a feeling of disappointment it is to all religious educators, when they see all their efforts wasted.

O you young people, who are still good, pray for them that Our Lord may convert them and bring them back to a sense of their duty. Recommend to Our Lord those who were your companions in doing good, but now, by their bad example, would make you, too, unfaithful to God. St. Celarinus had a sister who had yielded to the fury of the persecution, and offered sacrifice to the idols. When he heard of this miserable fear, he clothed himself in sackcloth and fasted severely; even on Easter days he did not cease praying to God that the grace of conversion might be granted her, and he resolved to do this penance until he saw her again reconciled to the Church. St. Dominic prayed whole nights for the conversion of sinners and did penances for them. St. Francis Xavier was so zealous for the conversion of sinners that he went about the city of Molacca ringing a bell and crying out in a loud voice, that all should pray for those in mortal sin. Do you also pray for those companions of your own age who once were brothers and sisters of Our Lord, but now are slaves of Satan? who at one time went with you to the banquet of the immaculate Lamb, but now live in union with the devil? As for yourselves, stand firm in your faith, be vigilant that you may not fall into the sins of the wicked, grow in grace, in purity,, in virtue, in wisdom, in the love of God, and you shall be dear to Our Lord, dear to all mankind, and it will be said of you as it was said of Jesus: “He grew in wisdom, in age, and in grace before God and men.”

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