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Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Finding Jesus: The search for Him in the noise of the world

By:   Barbara Cleary
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Finding Jesus: The search for Him in the noise of the world

I was taking my morning walk the other day and felt the change in the air. It is not going to be long now before leaves will start to change and then fall from the trees in readiness for winter. The days are already becoming shorter.

The life of the Church has a similar shift. Mass themes in the Pentecost season gradually move us toward contemplation of eternity: how we earn it, the need of God’s mercy, heavenly peace, Christ’s return as Judge, the soul yearning for heaven, until finally we face the Final Judgment.

In anticipation for the closing of the Liturgical year, the Church once again brings the Blessed Mother to the forefront. The monthly dedications of August, September, and October highlight her Immaculate Heart, her Seven Sorrows, and her favorite devotion, the Holy Rosary.

For many, many years I have tried to spend a little time each day offering seven Hail Marys in honor of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Mother.

During that time, her sixth sorrow, (Jesus is taken down from the Cross and laid in her arms), had been one that caused me to pause more than the others. Until now.

The image, so wonderfully sculpted in Michelangelo’s Pieta, sits in sharp contrast to an image of Mary holding her infant Child at his birth. So while she holds that Infant, giving Him to the world with the fullness of life, we (represented by the men who removed Him from the Cross), give her back a Son bloodied and mangled by our own hands. Her sorrow must have been incomprehensible.

As powerful as that image is for me, I have since been moved to contemplate her third sorrow (the loss of the Child Jesus for three days).

Carl Heinrich Bloch The Twelve Year Old Jesus in the Temple

Consider the scene. Christ was some 12-years old at the time of this incident. When going to the temple in Jerusalem Jews would travel together, and as he was older than some boys, but not quite a man, he could travel with the men in their caravan or with the women and children in theirs. According to the account of St. Luke (Ch 2: 43–45):

And after they had fulfilled the days, when they were returning, the Boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and his parents did not know it. But thinking that he was in the caravan, they had come a day’s journey before it occurred to them to look for him among their relatives and acquaintances. And not finding him they returned to Jerusalem in search of him.

Drilling down

There are many pearls of thought to consider in this meditation. Of course, the Blessed Mother would be distressed as any mother would be on not finding her child among the travelers. It would likely be distressful deciding to return to Jerusalem — the big city — to look for him. So for many years I really only thought about what her feelings might have been on this loss.

I have since, however, turned my focus to the scene of her and St. Joseph, anxiously moving through the caravan in search of him. Picture them moving from group to group trying to find him, asking any and all if they had seen him.

Applying this to our own situations, how often is it that in the busyness of our days or as we just travel through our lives we lose Jesus. The Church asks us to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation; but what about the rest of our days?              

We come in contact with many people each day, some by choice and others incidentally. Do we find Jesus among them?

When we lose sight of Him it is important to go searching in places where we sometimes least expect to find Him: among those souls who challenge us to be better than we are.

I can only speak for myself, but there are times when I find it easier to see him in those I don’t encounter that often, or even in total strangers. A man or woman with mental problems, walking along the street talking to themselves or shouting at cars; a child, perhaps, ignored by other children at play—the inspiration to offer a silent prayer for them comes easily to me.

Rude drivers. Inconsiderate shoppers. Surly customer service people. You see the point.

Even if that person is annoying, rude, inconsiderate — whatever — I find it far easier to look past that behavior and treat them more compassionately than I might simply because I somehow recognize an opportunity to serve Our Lord.

Contrast this with almost never finding Jesus in those constantly around me. It is difficult for me to see and serve Jesus when, for example, my daughter sits at the kitchen table talking to herself while I struggle to complete a project that requires my focused concentration. Or when Tim pulls me away from the same project to find his water bottle, flashlight batteries or some such thing.

Irritations. Vexations. Senseless stupidity. A challenge for me to see my loving Lord and God in these souls through all of this.

Completing the story

So what happens when Mary and Joseph journey back to Jerusalem? Two important things:

And it came to pass after three days, that they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. (St. Luke Ch 2:46)

They found him, where in our times we all find him, in the tabernacle at church. He is present there ready to listen to whatever we want to say to him. What a comfort and solace this is!

…and at the end of this incident:

And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them; and his mother kept all these things carefully in her heart. (St. Luke Ch 2:51)

The Takeaway

We should be able to find Jesus each day in those we live with, work with, or otherwise encounter. When we can’t, when we lose sight of Him it is important to go searching in places where we sometimes least expect to find Him: among those souls who challenge us to be better than we are.

We should, like the Blessed Mother, keep all of what we know and understand about Christ-like compassion “in our hearts” so that He is readily present to us, inspiring us to look through those daily annoyances and inconveniences and see Him in all things.

Why are such things so much easier said than done?

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Last modified on Wednesday, August 23, 2023