Joseph and Mary loved their faith. Every year they journeyed with family and friends to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. But one year, when the festivities had ended and they were heading for home, Jesus stayed behind.
It takes a day for them to realize He’s even missing, and then his parents hastily retrace their steps, with impassioned prayers on their lips for the safety of their Son. (Perhaps Mary wondered if these days would bring the sword that was to pierce her soul.) But then, on the third day, they find Jesus safe and sound, dialoguing ably with the religious teachers in the temple.
He seems surprised that his parents would be searching for Him, “Why were you looking for me?” Jesus still has some “advancing” to do in both wisdom and in the experience that comes with age. Not telling His parents where He was going to be was perhaps the boy Jesus’ honest mistake, and when Mom and Dad tell Him it’s time to come home He leaves with them and is obedient to them.
Today, on the Feast of the Holy Family, we recall Saints Mary and Joseph, the ideal parents, who lost track of their only Son in the big city; and we recall Jesus, the holy Child, the sinless Lamb, who wandered off from them. This episode goes to show that even perfect people sometimes make mistakes. Remember: not every personal failure is a personal sin.
Sometimes parents come to me with great sadness because their children have wandered from the Catholic Faith. They often blame themselves. Now it is possible to be negligent in not handing on the Faith, but the kind of parents who grieve over their children leaving the Church are probably ones who raised their children in the best way they knew how. These parents should not be so hard on themselves. Even Mary and Joseph had a child who wandered off on His own.
In this Year of Faith, who are the ones who have wandered from the Church that we should be seeking out? Pray for them and invite them back. Tell them, “It’s time to come home.”