Season of Joy: Week Five – The finding of Jesus in the Temple


11 Dec 2018

Praying with the Joyful Mysteries: Jesuit Communications offers a series of reflections around the five Joyful Mysteries. This week, we explore the finding of Jesus in the Temple.

Parishes and prayer groups: Feel free to print out and share our PDF resource, attach it to your parish bulletin or post it on your parish website or Facebook page: Download Season of Joy PDF

Gospel reading: Luke 2:41-52


This week we contemplate the losing and finding of a 12-year-old Jesus.

In Jerusalem for Passover, Mary and Joseph leave the holy city assuming Jesus is with them. After a day’s travel they return to Jerusalem when they cannot find him. There has been a misunderstanding. Three days later they find Jesus sitting in the Temple listening to teachers and asking questions.

Shocked, they cry ‘why have you treated us so?’ Jesus replies that he must be in his ‘father’s house.’ Eventually Jesus listens to his parents, and returns with them to Nazareth. Mary treasures ‘all these things in her heart’.

  1. Jesus is eventually found in ‘his father’s house’, and states it as if it is the place for him to be. Where is your place in the world – the place where you would want to be found by people looking for you?
  2. Even at 12, Jesus knew his role in the world was to be a teacher. What roles do you have in the world? How has your understanding of your roles developed over the years?
  3. What does it feel like to lose someone we love? Might God feel the same way about us when we lose our faith? What joy might be born when we find God again?
  4. As with all parents, Mary and Joseph could see in the Temple that the time would come when Jesus would need to leave their care and find his place in the world. How do we balance our desire to protect our children with the need to prepare them for that time?
  5. Mary ‘treasured all these things in her heart’. What does it mean that we can treasure both the good and bad events in our lives in our hearts?



Peter Fleming is a teacher at Loyola Senior High School Mt Druitt in Sydney, a regular writer for Australian Catholics magazine, and the author of The Unexpected Light: Reflections from a Year of Mercy and other books. He is also a parent – and reflects on what it’s like to lose track of a child.

Children love hide-and-seek, and the pleasure of not being located for a while is, paradoxically, immediately surpassed by the joy of finally being found.

Recently, in a Philippines hotel room, my son Christopher could not be found, and when all the usual places had been searched, panic struck: had he tried previously undiscovered laundry chute, or made his way onto a window ledge? A parent’s imagination quickly races to the unthinkable. He was found, to his giggling delight, on the very top shelf of a high and tottering cupboard, tucked so tight as to be practically invisible. Relief and chastisement followed in equal amounts.

Even a momentarily lost child grips the heart and tears the mind. When she was two-and-a-half years old, my niece went missing from a crowded party. Her mother and father each thought the other had been keeping an eye

on her but with so many people, natural confusion had been the enemy. She was gone for 30 terrifying minutes, near unguarded train lines and a backyard pool, unfenced, before the police reported her found: a good neighbour had seen the child wandering, taken charge and called the local station. Her rediscovery was a glimpse of heaven.

Jesus, as the Creed reminds us, was begotten; and he was incarnated; but it is in Luke’s gospel account of the Fifth Joyful Mystery that we see his earthly parents being reminded that he was not only a child to be found, but a child who would always remain, to a significant degree, a sort of foundling: never only their own. He tells his father and mother that he has been independently attending to his father’s business, and in his father’s house.

In our simplicity we are aggravated by the story: how could the Genius of Love put his parents through the awful agony of disappearing for three days? Mary must have thought he was dead.

We of course see the symbolism, and literary analysts sniff the foreshadowing, but this was no symbolic or literary experience for Mary and Joseph – it was a parent’s worst nightmare. Did they sleep those intervening nights?

Did they at times mutually accuse? Did Mary doubt the promises of Gabriel? Did Joseph question his own initial bravery, 12 years prior, of going through with the marriage in the first place?

‘Child, why have you treated us like this?’ Mary remonstrated, and again, our faith of ages causes aggravation: how could the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, have so misunderstood her son?

Because she, and He, were not first and foremost literary figures, and she was not living her life in the retrospect of history; Mary was living her life, as everyone does, forwards; and not even the most blessed will completely comprehend the mind of God at every stage.

But Jesus may well have been beginning to exercise his own heightened sense of the dramatic and the historic. He wanted to be found in the Temple, and in his 12th year, on the cusp of manhood. He wanted the act to be read, later, not as mere, wild, youthful assertion of independence; no; there is always method in his sanity.

The Gospel writer, Luke, depicts the experiences of Jesus, his father and mother with immediacy and authenticity: the panic; the raw emotion when he was rediscovered; the irony, that the teachers are being taught by the tyke; the confusion.

But ultimately, Luke delivers the joy, so simply, so beautifully: ‘His mother treasured all these things in her heart.’

All these things. The fear. The relief. The revelation among the teachers of her Son’s future glory.

The first taste of loss.

The mystery.

For more weekly prayer and spirituality reflections, go to

James O'Brien is an Editorial Assistant with Jesuit Communications.
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