THE CHILDHOOD AND EARLY MANHOOD of Christ were passed in the quiet retreat of Nazareth. Joseph worked at his carpentry. Mary performed the household chores common to the Jewish housewives of her time. The Divine Child rendered to both all the services a boy His age could perform. Externally, the lives of these three resembled the lives of their neighbors and countrymen.
In the Law it was prescribed that all male Israelites should celebrate the three great Jewish feasts, the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. In the time of Christ only those in Judea were considered obliged to worship in Jerusalem. However, pious Jews even from more distant parts of Palestine, like Galilee, would often come to Jerusalem, at least for the Passover. Joseph and Mary were among those who, though not obliged, annually went to Jerusalem.
When Jesus was twelve, He accompanied His parents on their journey to the capital city for the Passover. The celebration over, Mary and Joseph started the return trip and had come a full day’s journey before discovering that Jesus was not with them. Retracing their steps to Jerusalem the following day, they sought Him among their relatives and friends but could not find Him. On the third day, they discovered Him in the temple among the doctors, listening to them and asking them questions. His questions and answers were so intelligent that the doctors marveled. Mary and Joseph, witnessing this scene, were also astonished, for it was the first manifestation Jesus had made of His divine wisdom.
When the session was over, Mary inquired of Him, “Son, why hast Thou done so to us? Behold, in sorrow thy father and I have been seeking Thee.” Jesus said:
“How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”
The depth of the meaning of His words did not reach the understanding of Mary or Joseph, but His mother stored these words and events carefully in her heart.
Jesus returned to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph and was subject to them, while He continued to grow in wisdom, age and grace before God and men.
Meditation: The first words of Christ recorded in the Gospels are these words spoken to His parents. They are a good index to His whole life: “I must be about My Father’s business.” His first interest was to serve His Father. In this, too, He is our model for imitation. Our first interest should be to serve God. What comes first in our lives, our work? Our pleasure? Our luxury? Or the God we serve?
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 15-16. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.