Today involves one of my favorite readings from the Gospels: Luke 2:41-52. It gives us a glimpse into the little recorded early life of Jesus the Christ.
Like many good Jews, Joseph and Mary attended the feast of Passover in Jerusalem each year, and when Jesus was twelve they did so again. A day into the return trip home to Nazareth, Joseph and Mary discovered that Jesus wasn’t with them and they traveled all the way back to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
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.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them;
and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor
before God and man.
Two lines jump out at me in today’s reading. First, Mary asking, “Why have you done this to us?” and Jesus replying, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
One is a plaintive we often ask of God: Why have you done this to us? Why do you send misery into our lives, like making us sick or taking someone from our lives, or make us lose our homes, or keep us from attaining something we want?
The other is a simple answer of faith: Didn’t you know I don’t do things like that, I am at the Father’s right hand doing good works, not bad works. (In other readings Jesus says to know the Son is to know the Father and to know the Father is to know the Son.)
So maybe this story isn’t just about Mary needlessly worrying about losing her missing twelve year old in the dangerous big city and learning to trust that he’s in the right place all along, but rather not assigning all the terrible things that happen in life to God and trusting that he does good things for us, especially when we ask him.
I frequently see people who pretend to speak for God speaking hate and intolerance in His name, suggesting that calamity comes or will come for sins committed. Yet never once in the Gospels did Jesus punish people for sinning – rather, He kept company with sinners and even admonished those who would judge or stone them. The times He actually took action against anyone was when He overturned the tables of the money changers, who were defiling God’s temple, and preached against the powerful and self-righteous. Jesus, the son of God, was compassionate and healing of the sinner, not a condemner and punisher.
So when you look for Jesus, when you want to know what Jesus thinks or says or, What Would Jesus Do, don’t look for Him on the streets with the condemners holding protest signs or on TV with the preachers of doom to sell. Remember that Jesus is with the Father. Look for His words in the Gospels and seek Him in his Father’s house. Jesus provides lots of words of wisdom on how His Father provides even for the birds of the field – how much more will He give you what you need. He says to ask in Jesus’ name and the Father will provide what you need (and that’s a lot different than giving you what you covet).
“Why did you do this to us?” Don’t you know He didn’t? “I am must be in my Father’s house,” said Jesus. Seek His comfort there, not in the calamity.