The fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary is one I’ve always found a bit challenging.  It is the finding of the 12-year-old Jesus in the Temple, when He stayed behind in the city after the Passover, and His poor, distraught parents looked for Him for three days.  When they finally find Him in the Temple, Mary asks:

“Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”  And He said to them, “How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying which He spoke to them.  (Luke 2:48-50)

Mary and Joseph are not the only ones that did not understand.  I think that many of us today feel the same way.  We understand why Mary asks the question… but the questions the young Jesus asks her in reply are not so easy to understand.  They seem somewhat cold and perhaps insolent.  They don’t seem very much in character for the Son of God, and in fact they seem to go against the Commandment, “Honor thy father and mother.”

I’ve heard quite a few homilies about how it illustrates the fact that the Holy Family were not perfect, that they were human, and they had their tensions just like all families.

But after meditating upon this Mystery time and time and time again, I think there was also some divine purpose behind the story, a great moral to the story.  Perhaps He allowed His parents to search in vain for Him until they reached the Temple so that we would not make the same mistake.  That we might not seek Him in vain in the world.  That we might know exactly where to seek Him: in the Church.

Think of all the time and energy we waste running about in search of Him.  True, many people in our world don’t even realize it is Him for whom they search and long.  But even among Christians, even among Catholics, I hear it said, “God is bigger than the Church, God is everywhere.”  I don’t dispute that, but the meaning can easily be twisted or misconstrued: that because we have access to God any time and anywhere, we don’t need the Church.

The error in that is this:  God may be infinite, but we are not.  God may be bigger than the Church, but we are not.  God may be everywhere, but we aren’t necessarily able to find Him everywhere.  There are so many things, so many forces, so many noises and lights and shadows that interfere and lead us astray.  I learned this the very hard away when I was younger.  I turned from the Church in order to truly seek God.  I ended up in the clutches of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

It is folly to seek Christ apart from the Church.  Foolish and quite possibly dangerous.  We Catholics are especially blessed in that our churches truly are temples–God is truly present there.  Wherever the red lamp is lit, He is there, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.  That He is present in our churches–of that, we Catholics can be more certain and reassured than even most of our fellow Christians.

As usual, God and His Church don’t leave us to our own devices.  That is the beauty of our sacramental faith.  The Divine can be found in the midst of the world, in a very particular and definitive place and manner.  We need not seek Him in vain.