Did the young Christ apologize for being “lost” in Jerusalem?

I’ve been so busy in the last days that I haven’t paid much attention to some news stories floating around out there… and I have been the happier for it.

One story, however, could use some drilling, because it is causing some consternation.

On 27 Dec 2015 for the Feast of the Holy Family, Pope Francis said something (HERE) that made me scratch my head a little.  Emphasis mine.

At the end of that pilgrimage, Jesus returned to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents (cf. Lk 2:51). This image also contains a beautiful teaching about our families. A pilgrimage does not end when we arrive at our destination, but when we return home and resume our everyday lives, putting into practice the spiritual fruits of our experience. We know what Jesus did on that occasion. Instead of returning home with his family, he stayed in Jerusalem, in the Temple, causing great distress to Mary and Joseph who were unable to find him. For this little “escapade”, Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents. The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it. Mary’s question, moreover, contains a certain reproach, revealing the concern and anguish which she and Joseph felt. …

Christ “probably had to apologize” for this “scappatella… fling, bit of fun, escapade”.

I think Francis is trying to emphasize the human drama of the moment in the Gospel so as to make the scenario more vivid to the people listening in that moment, rather than add a deeper teaching point to posterity.

For my part, I think people can handle reflections on Christ as Eternal Word made Savior rather than Eternal Word made Ferris Bueller.

No, scratch that.  I don’t recall that Ferris apologized for his scappatella.  He was a bad boy. The young Jesus was a good boy… who would have apologized.  Right?

I’m not sure about that.

This is a good opportunity to drill more deeply into the Mystery of the Finding in the Temple, which I have done in the past in my Patristic Rosary Project.  Let’s drill deeper.

First, consider what the Lord replied (Luke 2 – Douay):

And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business? And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.

In so answering His earthly parents, the Lord teaches that the Father’s will is the only thing to which He must be obedient.  In humility, and according to filial piety/duty, He submitted Himself to Joseph and Mary.  But in truth, a superior filial piety/duty guided Him.

The scene of the Finding in the Temple is one of the only bits of information we have about this era of the Lord’s early life in Scripture. Therefore, great writers and thinkers have given it their consideration.

With due respect to the person of the Roman Pontiff, I can’t square this supposition about an apology with what Fathers of the Church have to say about this striking moment in the youth of the Lord.

Frankly, what he suggested initially sounded to me a bit like Nestorianism.  (NB: I’m not saying that Francis is a Nestorian but some dope or two out there will claim that.)  Why?  Nestorianism is Christological heresy that proposes a disconnect between Christ’s human and divine natures.  Nestorius (+450 – influenced by Theodore of Mopsuestia – spit here) wanted to defend two natures in Christ against those who claimed that Christ had only one nature, a divine nature.  Monophysites (“One nature-ites”) propose that Christ’s humanity was entirely absorbed by His divinity and therefore He had only one nature, divine.  Against monophysites, Nestorians propose that Christ has two natures, loosely united in such a way that the Person Jesus is not identical with the God the Son but rather is united with the Son, who lives in him.  A Nestorian Jesus would not have the same unity of intellect and will as the real Jesus.  Such a Jesus could, therefore, be imagined as being apologetic for His acts, as not knowing what He was doing, as acting in His human nature in a way that is not consistent with His divine nature – of doing things for which he ought to have and would have apologized.

On the contrary, I respond, the Lord had nothing to apologize for in being concerned firstly with His higher duty.  The Lord taught this to Mary and Joseph.  Scripture says in a pointed way that Mary pondered Christ’s statement.  “And his mother kept all these words in her heart.”  She learned to see her Son in a new way.

Christ apologizing seems to me to contradict the point of His words to Mary.

Scripture doesn’t say: “And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business? And they understood not the word that He spoke unto them. And therefore spoke Joseph unto Him saying, “Callest thou that an answer? What sayest Thou to Thy sorrowing mother?” And thereafter Mary, sorrowing, said “Thou art sooo grounded.”

And… does Christ apologize anywhere else in Scripture? Even when teaching hard teachings?  His teaching in the Temple to His mother and Father was hard teaching, after all.  Did He say in John 6: “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.  These things he said, teaching in the synagogue, in Capharnaum. Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it? But Jesus, knowing in himself, that his disciples murmured at this, said to them, Sorry! Hey! Wait! Don’t leave! I apologize!”  Or in Matthew 19: “And I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery. His disciples say unto him: If the case of a man with his wife be so, it is not expedient to marry. And He replied, Verily, you are right.  I take it back.  I apologize.”

Let’s move on.

Venerable Bede says in his Homilies on the Gospels 1, 19:

“Clearly the abode in the hearts of the elect of the holy Trinity, the nature of whose divinity is one and indivisible, cannot be disparate. Therefore, when He was Sitting in the temple, the Lord said, “I must be about my Father’s business,” and this is a declaration of His power and glory which are coeternal with God the Father’s.  [That isn’t something to apologize for.] However, when He returned to Nazareth, He was subject to His parents, and this is an indication of His true humanity as well as an example of humility. He was subject to human beings in that human nature in which He is less than the Father. Hence He Himself said, “I go to the Father because the Father is greater than I.”

Ambrose of Milan (+397) helps us sort out the Lord’s dutiful attitude of obedience to Joseph and Mary in view of His duties to God the Father.

In Commentary on Luke II, 65 Ambrose contrasts this moment in the Temple when Christ is still on 12 years old.  Remember: as God the Son, He is eternal, genitus non factus, but as Christ He was born 12 years before.

Could He do less then fulfill to perfection the duties of piety and then we are amazed that He shows deference toward the Father when He subjects Himself to His mother! This subordination does not indicate weakness certainly but only respect. Although the viper of heresy – slithering out of its sinister cave – raises its head and vomits venom from its serpentine stomach. Because the Son affirms that He is sent, the heretic says that the Father is greater than Him in order to claim that the Son is imperfect, if He can have one greater than Him, and demonstrate in this way that the one sent has need of help from another.

Ambrose seems pretty certain that it isn’t correct to see Christ as being subject to His earthly parents in a way that diminishes the truth of His divine nature and its unity with His human nature.

By the way, Ambrose goes on with a beautiful explanation of filial respect.  Check it out sometime.

Sticking with Ambrose, after describing how the Lord had two births, as it were, one divine and one human, the Bishop of Milan compares the finding in the Temple with the moment when Mary asks the Lord for a miracle at the Wedding at Cana.  Ambrose is answering an unspoken question about why the different interactions between Mary and the Lord, at the Temple and at Cana.  By the time Mary and Christ are at Cana, Ambrose says, Mary has learned to ask things from the Lord according to His divine nature (i.e., a miracle). When the Lord was still only 12, Mary still saw Him more through the lens of His human nature than through His divine nature and, therefore, Christ’s enigmatic behavior still leaves her disconcerted, as it can leave us disconcerted.   Remember that after Christ’s answer to Joseph and Mary in the Temple, she pondered His words in her heart.  In other words, Christ taught her and she learned.

John of Damascus (+749) has a point to make in Orthodox Faith 3. 22 about the Finding in the Temple:

He is said to have progressed in wisdom and age and grace, because He did increase in age, and by this increase in age brought more into evidence the wisdom inherent in Him further. By making what is ours altogether His own, He made His own the progress of people in wisdom and grace, as well as the fulfillment of the Father’s will, which is to say, people’s knowledge of God and their salvation.  [He progressed so as to show us that we, too, should progress.  But I digress.]

[He goes after Nestorians…] Now, those who say that He progressed in wisdom and grace in the sense of receiving an increase in these are saying that the union was not made from the first instant of the flesh’s existence. Neither are they holding the hypostatic union, but, misled by the empty headed Nestorius they are talking falsely of a relative union and simple indwelling, “understanding neither the things they say, nor whereof they affirm.” For, if from the first instant of its existence the flesh was truly united to God the Word – rather, had existence in Him and identity of person with Him –how did it not enjoy perfectly all wisdom and grace? It did not share the grace, and neither did it participate by grace in the things of the word. Rather, because the human and divine things had to become proper to the one Christ by the hypostatic union, then, since the same was at once God and man, it gushed forth with the grace and the wisdom and the fullness of all good things for the world.

As John Damascene describes the unity of the natures of Christ, it doesn’t strike me that an apology was due for His actions in Jerusalem when He was 12.  Picture this: “Sorry, Mom.  Sorry, Dad.  I was wrong to gush forth with the grace and the wisdom and the fullness of all good things for the world.  I won’t do it again.”

Did Christ think that He did something wrong in Jerusalem when He was 12?

Or did He simply not know what He was doing?

St. Jerome (+420) said in Homily on Psalm 15 (16):

How does He who is wisdom receive understanding? “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.” This means not so much that the Son was instructed by the Father but that His human nature was instructed by His own divinity. There is the seer’s prophecy of him who blossomed from the root of Jesse, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding.”

I’ll go out on a limb and say that Christ knew what He was doing in Jerusalem even when He was 12.

I think the Lord knew the consequences for Mary and Joseph.  Far from forgetting about them, or not caring about their anxiety and hours of searching, I think He intended those consequences for the sake of bringing them to a better understanding of who He was and what their vocation was for Him.  Ambrose writes in his Commentary on Luke, II, 63:

Nor is it idly that, without regard (immemor) of His parents according to the flesh, He who according to the flesh assuredly was filled with the wisdom and grace of God is found after three days in the temple. It is a sign that he who was believed dead for our faith would rise again after three days from His triumphal passion and appear on His heavenly throne with divine honor.

I don’t take immemor to mean, literally, that Christ was “forgetful”, that he forgot Mary and Joseph.  Immemor can mean a range of things, including “regardless”.  He was immemor in the sense that He placed His regard/thought of God the Father before his regard/thought for them.  That doesn’t mean that He didn’t think of them at all.

As the adult Christ was transfigured before Peter, John and James to help them endure His Passion, the young Christ gave Mary and Joseph, a lesson so that they would understand His actions not in an earthly sense, but according to the divine will of the Father.  He helped them to deal with their human sorrow and anxiety in the light of God’s mysterious plan.

St. Alphonsus Liguori (+1787 not a Father of the Church but a Doctor and pretty sharp) writes of this mystery and explains the pain that Mary and Joseph must have felt.  He makes the point, with other writers, in The Glories of Mary, that perhaps the sorrow and pain she felt during this test was greater than that which she felt at all the other times because, in this case, she and the Lord were separated.  She was with Him at His circumcision when Simeon said that a sword would pierce her heart.  She was with Him when they had to flee in fear of Herod into Egypt.

In this episode in Jerusalem, she seeks Christ – Her Son and Lord – with longing that is both humanly maternal, but also perfect in love.  She is the Immaculate Conception and never sinned.  Her pain was not irrational or unhinged.

St. Alphonsus says:

This sorrow of Mary ought, in the first place, to serve as a comfort to those souls who are desolate and do not enjoy the sweet presence they once enjoyed of their Lord. They may weep, but let them weep in peace, as Mary wept in the absence of Her Son. Let them take courage, and not fear that on this account they have lost the Divine favor, for God Himself said to St. Teresa: “No one is lost without knowing it; and no one is deceived without wishing to be deceived.”

If the Lord departs from the sight of that soul who loves Him, He does not therefore depart from the heart. He often hides Himself that it may seek Him with greater desire and love. But those who would find Jesus must seek Him, not amid the delights and pleasures of the world, but amid crosses and mortifications as Mary sought Him. “We sought Thee sorrowing”, She said to Her Son.

By the way, in regard to a rebuke from Mary and Joseph, which would in normal circumstances elicit an apology from a normal 12 year old, the Doctor and great moralist adds:

By these words She did not wish to reprove Jesus, as the heretics blasphemously assert, but only to make known to Him the grief She had experienced during His absence from Her, on account of the love She bore Him. It was not a rebuke, says Blessed Denis the Carthusian, but a loving complaint.

Much of this touches on the old questions about the relationship between Christ’s perfect divine nature and His perfect human nature, about how Christ had to learn, in His human nature, to do all the things we humans do, and yet, simultaneously, He is omniscient God.

Scripture doesn’t tell us what the Lord did on the way back home to Nazareth, but I am pretty sure He didn’t apologize for being about His Father’s business.

In any event, we are shown by the Lord in this mystery that no merely human concern can take precedence over God’s will, that all of us must progress in wisdom and knowledge of our selves, our vocations and our Faith and not merely remain stagnant year after year, that God’s ways are not our ways, that we cannot judge His mysterious works on our terms and that we can – in love – complain to the Lord and tell Him our sorrows and our cares.

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  1. Polycarpio says:

    Some of this, I think, is semantics. “Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents” in English makes it sound like he was groveling. But the Italian “chiedere scusa” could also be rendered more mildly as asking for indulgence. [I speak Italian.] Some gentle word or gesture by Jesus to acknowledge or assuage the feelings of His parents following the scare would not necessarily have contradicted His allegiance to His Heavenly Father. Instead of “beg forgiveness,” I would have translated the phrase “say I’m sorry.” Saying I’m sorry doesn’t betray principles. You could say “I’m sorry that you felt that way,” “I’m sorry that my purposes must remain mysterious,” etc. In fact, he doesn’t even have to say “I’m sorry,” he could simply say, “What I do won’t always make sense, but you have to trust me,” and that’s begging indulgence. Semantics. [I doubt that is what Pope Francis was doing. Nice try.]

  2. The Masked Chicken says:

    I have been at a retreat where this passage was brought up by the retreat master (a priest) as an example of Jesus being a little bratty as a youth. I was upset and went and researched this pretty thoroughly.

    First off, it is obvious, from context, that Jesus was bar mitzvah at this point (either on this occasion or earlier, given his precociousness – the age of 13 for boys was standardized in the Middle Ages and 12 is a number of perfection in Jewish numerology). As such, he would have been considered an adult under the Mosaic Law and of equal standing to lead a minyon or temple prayer, hold property, get married, etc. Notice, however, his position in the Temple when his parents found him – he is sitting, which is the customary position for a teacher in Judaism (and a referent to Moses). He would never have been allowed that had he not been bar mitzvah. In the passage, it says:

    “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
    And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.”

    Now, a bar mitzvah, a son of the law, is held to be accountable for his own actions, whereas before being bar mitzvah, the parents are responsible for the actions of the child. This scene was the earliest that Jesus could have an adult responsibility before God to carry out His Commandments, the first of which is to reverence God above all else. Far from acting as a brat, Jesus was acting as an adult. The retreat priest was putting a 21-Century interpretation on this. Thus, Jesus asked his parents why they were looking for him. Where else would he have been? One could argue that, as being bar mitzvah he could be married, this was the early betrothal between him and his Church, which would be consummated on the Cross.

    In any case, the disputation with the doctors in the temple is a typical Jewish rabbinical scenario. They were amazed because of his youth, but also because of his answers.

    That he was lost for three days is an obvious preparation of Mary for the three days Jesus will be in the tomb, visiting the souls in Hades. This could be seen, again, as the Little Crucifixion – just as Jesus entered Jerusalem as an adult and argued with the Temple teachers, just so, here, as a boy, he does the same thing, only, this time, he is not killed, but it does mark the beginning of His life of obedience, first to God, then His parents, and, ultimately obediently accepting even death on the Cross.

    The Church Fathers have seen this episode as the first public manifestation of both Christ’s divinity (as teacher) and humanity (as son).

    There is another, more subtle point to be made, however, about sitting in the Temple. In 2 Thessalonians 1 – 4, we read:

    “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren,
    [2] not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
    [3] Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition,
    [4] who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”

    The anti-Christ will mimic the actions of the Christ, but whereas Jesus did not deem equality to God something to be grasped at and returned to Nazareth and was obedient to God under the Second Commandment, the anti-Christ will proclaim himself to be God.

    So, it is unclear why Jesus would apologize to his parents for doing what he was entitled to do. They might even have apologized to him, later, for worrying too much, but then, they did not enjoy the Beatific Vision, as Christ did.

    Christ could not sin. He could grow in human experience, but nowhere in Scripture does Christ ever apologize to anyone. Some priests I have heard claim that he was not perfect because he made a mistake in choosing Judas to be an apostle. Rubbish. He knew what he was doing at all times. A brat is, by definition, someone who violates the Second Commandment. Since Jesus could not do this, but fulfilled the Commandments perfect, he could not have been a brat. He might have been misunderstood and might have, in charity, apologized to his parents for causing them grief, but one of his parents, his mother, is Mary, while the other is God, his Father, so Jesus’s parents really live in two different homes, one in Nazareth and the other in the Temple in Jerusalem. One cannot be amazed that Mary and Joseph did not understand the hypostatic union. Jesus’s actions, that day, are a veiled reference to that.

    The Chicken

  3. JPK says:

    I think sometimes Pope Francis tries too hard reduce the Gospel to its simplest forms. Otherwise, I have no idea why he said such a thing.

  4. WaywardSailor says:

    Thank you, Father. The Fifth Joyful Mystery has long been for me the most difficult on which to meditate. Your insight gives me a new perspective and greater depth of understanding. I must say, however, that even in the depths of my perplexity it never entered my mind that Mary and Joseph were expecting an apology or that they received one.

  5. Sonshine135 says:

    Clearly, Our Lord was not required to apologize. Mary and Joseph’s own humility needed a kick in the shin. I think the reading shows quite profoundly that even they needed to seek God and that they were prone to human nature. This makes Mary and Joseph, as parents, real and identifiable to me. I can quite imagine sometime later, Our Blessed Mother doing a little bit of a face palm as revelation unfolded.

  6. JKnott says:

    Cornelius Lapide’s Great Commentary has the traditional understanding of the mystery of the Finding in the Temple as we more or less understand it. I searched his writing on this after checking out the synonyms for the word “escapade”. Whatever the Fathers’ interpretations are they don’t include meanings such as: prank, caper, prank folly, frolic antic etc..
    Here is Lapide
    Ver. 45.—And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Jesus having been seen by none of His kinsfolk on the way, His parents understood that He must have remained in Jerusalem; and so they sought Him there with great anxiety. Origen gives the reason, and Theophylact and Titus follow him. “But did they seek Him so anxiously? Did they imagine that the Child had been lost, or had wandered from the way?” Far otherwise, “For this would not have been characteristic of Mary’s wisdom (she knew that Jesus was full of wisdom, yea, that He was God), and they could never have thought that the Child was lost, when they knew that He was Divine, but they sought Him lest by any means He might have gone away from them; lest perchance He had left them;” lest He should wish to remain not with them at Nazareth, but with others in Jerusalem, that He might there make haste to begin the ministry of teaching for which He had been sent by God. Origen adds, “They sought Him, lest perchance He might have gone away from them, lest He might have left them and betaken Himself elsewhere—or as seems most probable—lest He might have returned to heaven, to descend from thence when it should please Him . . . but she mourned because she was a mother, and the mother of a Son worthy of her immeasurable love—because He had departed without her knowledge, and quite contrary to her expectation.”

    S. Antoninus adds that the mother of Jesus feared lest He might have fallen into the hands of Archeläus, the son of Herod the Infanticide, who would slay Him. Euthymius and Francis Lucas think she feared lest Christ might have wandered from the road, since He did not thoroughly know all the way. For, though He knew its turns and windings by His Divine and infused wisdom, yet, according to the experimental knowledge which He, as a child, was following, He did not know it. Whether this be correct I leave to theologians to decide.

    Ver. 46.—And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. After three days, that is, on the third day. The first day was that on which they left Jerusalem; the second, that on which, not finding Him at the inn, they returned; and the third, when they sought and found the Holy Child in the Holy Temple. So S. Ambrose, Euthymius, and others. Just as we read in ver. 21, “When the eight days were accomplished”—that is, on the eighth day—Jesus was circumcised. And in S. Mark viii. 31, “The Son of Man must suffer many things . . . after three days (that is, on the third day) to rise again.”

    In the Temple—For the place of God Incarnate is in the Temple. There is He to be sought, there shall He be found—not in the market-place, not in the tavern, not in the theatre. S. Basil and S. Gregory Nazianzen imitated Christ, for they, according to Ruffinus, when they were studying at Athens, knew but two streets in the city—one led to the church and the other to the school.

    The whole of these three days, then, Jesus spent in praying and hearing and answering the doctors in the Temple; His food He received from the doctors, who, being present, and admiring His wisdom, invited Him. Others, with less probability, think that He lived by begging from door to door; such is the opinion of S. Bernard (Hom. infra Oct. Epiphan.), Bonaventura, Alensis, and others. S Thomas, in the Summa, favours this view, proving that Christ did sometimes beg, from the words of Ps. xl. 17, “But I am poor and needy.” On the other hand, Nicholas de Lyra, Dionysius the Carthusian, John the Greater, commenting on this passage, and John of Avila, on S. Matt. xvii., hold that Christ never begged, begging having been unlawful among the Jews. “There shall be no poor among you,” Deut. xv. 4. However, these words are not a precept, but a promise of riches, if they obey the Law of God.

    Sitting in the midst of the doctors. A Hebraism—among the doctors, but in a lowly position like a disciple, in order that He might rouse them to think and inquire about the advent of the Messiah, which was now nigh at hand, because the sceptre had departed from Judah, and the seventy weeks of Daniel and other oracles of the prophets were now fulfilled. It is very probable that Christ questioned the doctors about the coming of the Messiah, so that His manifestation might not be unexpected, but that, afterwards, when preaching and working miracles, He might the more readily be received by them as the Messiah, from these same indications which now flashed out like sparks upon them.

    Asking them questions. (1.) Because it was fitting that the child should ask questions of these learned men, and not teach them. (2.) To teach the young modesty, and the desire to hear, to question, and to learn, “Lest,” says Bede, “if they will not be disciples of the truth, they become masters of error.” (3.) That, asking them questions, He might be questioned in turn by them, and might teach them by His replies.

    Ver. 47.—And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. That a child of twelve, the son of a carpenter, one who had never attended the schools, should be so versed in Holy Scripture, should question so wisely and answer so intelligently as to surpass even the doctors themselves, so that they said, “What thinkest thou that this child will be?”—will He be a Prophet? will He be the Messiah, whom we all anxiously expect from day to day to be the Teacher of the World?

    Ver. 48.—And when they saw him, they were amazed. His parents, who were seeking Him, wondered and rejoiced at finding Him alone disputing with the doctors, manifesting such wisdom, while the doctors, and all the rest who were present, wondered at Him.

    And His mother said unto Him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing—the Arabic adds, “with labour.” Such are the words of His mother, not as finding fault with Christ, but in wonder and in sorrow, and sorrowfully unfolding her grief. The reverence felt by this mother for her Child—the God-Man—assures us of this; so it is most likely that she said this to Him, not publicly in the assemblage of doctors, but privately, calling Him aside, or when the assembly had dispersed. So Jansenius, Maldonatus, and others.

    Thy father and I. S. Augustine (Serm. 63 De Diversis, xi.) remarks upon the, humility of the Virgin, who, knowing that she was in every sense (in solidum) the Mother of Christ, and, therefore, of God, and that Joseph had no part in begetting Him, yet modestly puts herself after Joseph as her husband. “She expresses herself always,” says an anonymous writer in the “Catena Græcca,” like a mother, with trustfulness, humility, and affection.”

    Tropologically, let the soul that has separated itself from Jesus by mortal sin, or from its wonted communion with Him by venial negligence, seek Him again (1) with the sorrow and tears of a penitent heart, for, as S. Gregory Nazianzen says (Orat. 3), “The tears of righteous men” (and of sinful too, if they repent) “are the flood that covers sin, and the expiation of the world, as was Noah’s flood;” (2) with earnestness and solicitude, as the Blessed Virgin did, and that in the Temple, by passing some time in prayer and in spiritual reading and meditation; (3) among the doctors, among learned and good men, who shall instruct the soul as well in knowledge as in piety.

    Ver. 49.—And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? S. Ambrose holds that these are the words of one administering reproof. And Christ, as the Messiah, and as a Lawgiver, might rightfully have reproved His mother had she sinned. But there was no blemish of sin in His mother, neither therefore was there any reproof on the part of Christ. Still, there is in the words a certain sharpness of tone, savouring of reproof, that He may teach them by His question and incite them the more keenly to learn the things that concerned Him, just as parents are wont to stimulate their children to zeal and diligence with sharp words, and masters their pupils. These words of Christ, then, are the words of one instructing and consoling; excusing himself, and defending what he has done:—There was no need for you to seek Me, for you might have considered that I was treating concerning the beginning of that business, the salvation of the world, for which My Father sent Me. Neither must you suppose that I shall always remain with you; some day I shall leave you and go away about this business, as I have already begun to do. And, as for My going without your knowledge, I did so purposely, to teach you that, in these matters, I depend not on you, but on My Heavenly Father, and that I must act according to His will and His plan. It is not I, then, who have given you cause for sorrow, but partly your love for Me and partly your ignorance of the mystery I have now told you of; you knew not that I was occupied with My Father’s affairs. For, though this ought to have presented itself to your mind, your tender love prevented it, and turned aside the thought. Hence Bede says, “He blames her not because she sought Him as her son, but forces her to raise the eyes of her mind to what He owes Him whose Eternal Son He is.”

    In order to understand this thoroughly we must notice that Christ, besides His Divine actions, which He had as God and the Son of God, such as creating, preserving, and ruling all things, and breathing the Holy Spirit, had human actions of two kinds. Of these He had some as man, common to Him with other men, eating, walking, labouring, &c.; others were proper to Him as the God-Man, the Redeemer, the Christ, and these actions are called by S. Dionysius “Theandric” (???? ?????); being the works partly of God and partly of a man. Such actions were those of teaching, working miracles, calling His disciples, creating and ordaining apostles, &c. In respect of the former class of actions Christ was willing to obey His parents; but as to the latter He would obey only God His Father, because these, as being of a higher order, were received by and were under the direction of God alone. Wherefore He answered His parents, when they sought an explanation of His conduct, that these things were to be done, not at their will and pleasure, but at God’s—as appears from this passage, and at the marriage at Cana, in the turning of the water into wine, S. John ii. 4, and in other similar cases.

    And these actions which Christ did as the God-Man He calls the actions of God His Father, and attributes to His Father, not to Himself (1) because on account of these works He was sent by His Father into the world; (2) because He had His Divinity from the Father, and these were the works chiefly of His Divinity; (3) because He did them by the Father’s command; (4) because in these matters He was subject to no one but His Eternal Father, to teach us that God’s command or counsel must come before even the tenderest love for mother—as when God calls any one to religion, to the priesthood, to martyrdom, or to the apostolate, and his parents are opposed to the call.

    Ver. 50.—And they understood not the saying which He spake unto them. Some make these words refer to the ignorance of those who stood by, who were astonished at the wisdom and the answers of Jesus—others to Joseph alone by a synecdoche. But they clearly refer both to the Blessed Virgin and Joseph; for, though they knew that their Jesus was Christ, the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world, still they did not understand in what manner He was going to set about the work of this His office, or what was that business of His Father which He had said that it behoved Him to be about—that is to say, whether, or when, or how He was going to teach, to live, to die, and to be crucified for the salvation of the world; for these things had not yet been revealed to them by God. However, they learnt all this in progress of time, either by experience or by revelation from Jesus. And, out of reverence for Him, they durst not ask Him curiously in this place what those mysteries were, but prudently awaited the fitting opportunity.

    Ver. 51.—And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth and was subject unto them. He “came to Nazareth” of His own accord, notwithstanding that S. Bernard says (Serm. 19 in Cant.), “Having remained in Jerusalem, and having told them that He must needs be engaged in what belonged to His Father, He yet did not disdain to follow them to Nazareth—the Master—the disciples—God—Men, the Word and Wisdom,—a carpenter and a woman.”

    Subject. In the Greek ???????????, obedient, that is, as regards His human nature, not as regards His Divine nature, as S. Augustine shows, in opposition to the Arians (Contra Maximinum, lib. iii. cap. xviii.)

    Observe that the human nature in Christ, though considered in itself, it was under the rule of His mother, yet, being elevated by God to the Person [Hypostasis] of the Word, and being, therefore, one with God—one Divine Person—was, for this reason, exempt from the obligation of obedience to His mother as much as from that of obedience to the laws of Augustus and all other worldly authorities. Just as a member of a religious order, if he be made Pope, is exempted from the obedience of his order, and, indeed, becomes its superior. Yet Christ, to give us an example of profound humility and perfect obedience, made Himself subject to His mother, and to Joseph too.

    Let children learn, says S. Augustine (Serm. 63 De Diversis), to be subordinate to their parents, because the world is subject to Christ, and yet Christ was subject to His parents. And & Bernard (Serm. 1 on the text “missus est”) exclaims, “He was subject to them. Who? To whom? God to men, not only to Mary, but also to Joseph. On both sides an astounding thing! On both sides a marvel! both that God obeys a woman—humility without example! and that a woman rules over God—exaltation without a parallel! . . . Blush, proud dust and ashes (cinis)! God humbles Himself, and dost thou lift thyself up? . . . As often as I desire to rule over men so often do I strive to surpass my God.”

    Christ wished to teach us by the whole of His early life, for thirty years without cessation, that the perfection of virtue, and especially of religious life, consists in obedience. He did and said many things in these thirty years, but S. Luke sums them all up in the sentence, “He was subject to them.” Glorious panegyric of a religious man! All His life He was obedient and subject to His superiors.

    It is the opinion of the old writers that Christ assisted Joseph in his trade as a carpenter. For it was fitting that He, who, together with His true Father, is the Artificer of the Universe, should practise with His supposed father the trade of an artificer.

    These scanty facts only does S. Luke recount of the youth of Christ until His thirtieth year; and during the whole of this time He lived privately and unknown. The statements from the apocryphal book, called “The Infancy of the Saviour,” and other books of the same kind, the Church rejects.

    S. Justin (Dial. contra Tryphonem) says that Christ used to make ploughs, yokes, &c., and that for this reason He often took them as figures of speech in the Gospel, as, “Take My yoke upon you,” and “No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Lyranus, Jansenius, Maldonatus, Dionysius the Carthusian, and John of Avila are of the same opinion, as also Cajetan, and Francis Lucas (on S. Mark vi. 3); but Paulus Burgensis, Baradius, and Simon de Cassia (book iv. ch. 3) deny that Christ worked as a carpenter, and hold that He lived a retired life like a religious until His thirtieth year, passing His time in prayer, contemplation, and fasting. To the objection that the Nazarenes, who were neighbours of Jesus, asked, “Is not this the carpenter?” they find an answer in S. Augustine (De Cons. Evang., 1. ii. c. xlii.), “They thought Him a carpenter because He was a carpenter’s son,” S. Matt. xiii. 55. But since the Nazarenes saw Jesus every day, and studiously watched what He did, they seem likely to have called Him a carpenter from His occupation. Otherwise, indeed, had they seen Him idle, they would have taxed Him with idleness, for not succouring the poverty of His parents by His labour, and helping His father Joseph in his work.

    Besides Christ wished by this labour to give an example to working-men. So S. Paul was a tent-maker, even when he preached, as appears from Acts xviii. 3.

    But His mother kept all these sayings in her heart—that, in course of time, she might the more fully understand all that Christ should say and do, and also that she might impart them to S. Luke and the other Apostles, to be written or handed down to posterity. “For although,” says Titus, “she did not perfectly follow all that was said by Him, yet she understood them to be Divine things, and above human understanding. She heard Jesus, not as a child of twelve years, but received and heeded His words as those of a man perfect in every way.” Or, as Euthymius says, “as the words not merely of a child, but also of the Son of God.”

  7. Henry Belton says:

    I’m going to do something I’ve rarely done – disagree with you Father.

    Jesus did not have to have been wrong (let alone commit a sin), in order to apologize. We apologize all the time, not because we have sinned but because we have empathy for person in pain due our action. [I don’t think that is what Pope Francis was driving at.]

    Jesus apparently did not know that his parents where not aware of his whereabouts (human nature did not know, that is). He asks them “did you not know?”. Indeed they did not. I imagine that after three days, Mary Joseph cried at finding him; St. Alphonsus makes this point – Mary made her grief know to him. It doesn’t seem fitting for Jesus to stoically disregard his parents’ emotion. It seems more appropriate (and still sinless) that he would have express charity and said “I’m sorry Mother and Father, I thought you’d have known where I was”. [Nice try.]

  8. tzabiega says:

    Pardon my ignorance, but I thought at the age of 12 in ancient Jewish society Jesus would have been considered to come of age, i.e. be considered an adult? Therefore, as an adult He did not need to go with Joseph and Mary, who may have assumed he would have. [Good point.] Since Jesus cannot sin and disobedience to earthly parents (even by the Second Person of the Trinity) would have been a sin, therefore this is eternally impossible (Pope Francis should know that–a properly catechised child should know that). Maybe Joseph and Mary assumed he was going with one of them (since men and women traveled separately in those days, but boys would travel with their mothers, while adults males AFTER age 12 would travel with their fathers ), but never asked him when they left, so Jesus stayed in “his Father’s house,” since as an adult he was not obligated to go with them if they didn’t request it. When they came back they asked him to go back with him and therefore he did so as the perfect son that he was. What Mary said was indeed not a rebuke. A parent may be looking for their son or daughter, knowing fully well they are good children who would not do anything wrong, and when they find them they do not have to automatically come to a wrong conclusion and rebuke, but simply ask the question “what happened?” And of course be worried which any parent would be simply when a child may be in distress but doing the right thing (like the parents of a soldier). And that is what the Blessed Mother did, as she couldn’t have committed a sin either, [Yep.] and assuming Jesus (who she knew was the Son of God) [Indeed.] to have done something wrong would have been a minor sin on her part (and since she is without any sin, this was utterly impossible). This is my common sense Catholic interpretation, without any formal education in theology.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  9. tz2026 says:

    Even Joseph, and Immaculate Mary had to anxiously seek and find Jesus.
    And we all find him “in his Father’s house”.

  10. apman says:

    Few of the comments so far show how bad the neo-ultramontane bug can be. The Holy Father made a mistake and henceforth he shouldn’t have made such a comment. We don’t have to defend every sentence that comes from the Pope.

    Let’s move on now.

  11. I have spent a good amount of time pondering the meaning of “fully human and fully divine.” One could spend many lifetimes thinking about this and perhaps only have scratched the surface. It’s the sort of answer to a question that raises far more questions than it settles. It’s an area where our language is probably inadequate to do the teaching justice. Then to add Mary’s sinlessness to the mix only raises more questions. One walks a fine line in discussing a topic such as this; going beyond the actual facts raises a high risk of veering into heresy either way, even for faithful sons and daughters of the Church. We should think about it nevertheless and try to understand it as best as mere mortals can.

  12. kiwiinamerica says:

    “I think Francis is trying to……………..”

    The story of this pontificate.

    There’s a “he said what………………??” moment, at least once per week, sometimes more frequently.

    Why are we continually forced to parse, interpret, sift, spin and second guess his words? Is it because we’re trying really, really hard to fit them into the pigeon hole labeled “Catholic Tradition”?

    It’s got to the point where I have to take medication every time he boards an airplane because y’all know what that means, right? Uh huh……an inflight press conference!

    So tired of this “I’m bigger than the Church” attitude. You see it in the above excerpt…..“The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it.”

    Um, no…….no we can’t Holiness. Stick to the script.

  13. iamlucky13 says:

    This topic reminds of a related argument that also sounds to me like it borders on Nestorianism: that Jesus somehow did not know He was divine. Various proponents say His divinity was revealed to Him either just before the finding in the Temple, or at His baptism by John. One of the times I heard this, it came from a priest during a Sunday homily.

    I’m not aware of this argument qualifying on its own as Nestorianism or having been formally condemned (nor of any Church father endorsing it), but it seems to me barely credible at best that Jesus’ human and divine natures could be simultaneously held in such a way as to make such ignorance possible, and the excerpt Father Z posted from St. John of Damascus seems to concur.

    I considered writing the bishop about the priest who was preaching this, but since I don’t know if that particular branch of thought has actually been condemned or is open for discussion, and wasn’t sure my concerns were really justified, I decided to hold off and try to learn more.

    I like the quote from St. Alphonsus as a possible reflection for the 5th Joyful Mystery for times when I’m not feeling joyful.

  14. stephen c says:

    Thank you for this post, Father Z, it is nice to hear this issue so well explained, with relevant quotes from very persuasive saints. I like to think that Mary’s question was made in the trusting and loving hope that she would get a completely reassuring answer (keeping in mind that the previous episode in the Gospel involved a prediction that her son would cause her great suffering): “Yes, this separation was hard on you, I realize, but this – and only this – was the sword through your heart, the suffering, that the prophetess spoke of, and there will be no more.” Those were words that we know, after the Crucifixion, that He could not have said, but Mary could not , perhaps, have known that. In defense of Pope Francis, I believe that , for historical reasons, Central Americans and South Americans have more of a cultural affinity for mocking children than they are aware of, (sort of an adult/child corollary to the male/female arrogant machismo that Saint John Paul railed against) , and sometimes this flows over, even for the best people from that region, into unconsciously unfair and prideful disparagement of young people. So when I heard that Pope Francis had repeated this less than fully respectful assessment of the actions of Jesus after he had instructed the Doctors of the Law at the Temple, I did not for a moment suspect anything like Nestorianism, I was just mildly disappointed, although not surprised. If we had an Irish or French Pope he probably would have made a similarly disparaging pleasantry about the reasons why Jesus changed water to wine at Cana.

  15. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The moral of the story is that a cute Bible joke is not so cute when you are pope, because people are going to tend to take it as teaching.

    And no, Jesus did not apologize for making His mom and fosterdad worry, just like your mom nevrr apologized for making you eat your spinach.

  16. robtbrown says:

    Henry Belton says,

    Jesus apparently did not know that his parents where not aware of his whereabouts (human nature did not know, that is). He asks them “did you not know?”. Indeed they did not. I imagine that after three days, Mary Joseph cried at finding him; St. Alphonsus makes this point – Mary made her grief know to him. It doesn’t seem fitting for Jesus to stoically disregard his parents’ emotion. It seems more appropriate (and still sinless) that he would have express charity and said “I’m sorry Mother and Father, I thought you’d have known where I was”. 

    Your comments are more Nestorian than Catholic.

  17. robtbrown says:

    IMHO, this is Francis at his worst. He is a man who distrusts theology and seems to consider it little else than ideology. And that seems to lead to some head scratchers that are theologically sloppy at best.

    During his otherwise excellent talk to marrieds during his visit to the US, the pope said that God created the world because he needed something to love. In fact, God’s creative act is entirely free, not a product of necessity.

    That God’s love is necessary is an entrance to the Trinity–not to the Creation.

  18. Bthompson says:

    As a priest who routinely preaches off-the-cuff (i.e. after prayer and study, but without a written text) I can admit that from time to time I have occasionally bit my own tongue at the ambo because my Christology just dipped a *bit* too low, or I accidentally chose a word or phrase that in retrospect was not totally theologically precise (e.g. Very recently at a funeral, I wanted to emphasize the communion of the saints, and I said “she is still your mother, your friend, your sister, your wife…” and then INSTANTLY kicked myself internally for my tongue outpacing my brain, but could not really retract the error in any tactful way).

    My point is that I doubt the Pope meant to imply anything erroneous or to ascribe sin or error to Our Lord or Lady. Everyone’s tang gets tongled from time to time.

    -Fr Thompson

    [I know what you mean. Yesterday a priest friend texted me a message (about this) trying to remember who it was who said that a sermon isn’t successful unless it has three heresies in it. I don’t condone heresy, of course, but you get the point.]

  19. Polycarpio says:

    RobtBrown, before we throw Henry Belton out of the Church for his supposed Nestorian penchants, consider this: “As a human being, [the 12 year old Christ] does not live in some abstract omniscience, but he is rooted in a concrete history, a place and a time, in the different phases of human life, and this is what gives concrete shape to his knowledge. So it emerges clearly here that he thought and learned in human fashion.” Joseph Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, p. 127. I strongly suspect that Belton has understood the Pope correctly.

  20. Pingback: Jesus Apologizing – The American Catholic

  21. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I considered writing the bishop about the priest who was preaching this, but since I don’t know if that particular branch of thought has actually been condemned or is open for discussion, and wasn’t sure my concerns were really justified, I decided to hold off and try to learn more.”

    Yes, it has been condemned. This was part of what I had to research when looking for answers to the priest who gave the retreat I was at. It is de fide that Jesus enjoyed the Beatific vision from his conception. There are passages in Denzinger (2289), which quote Mystici Corporis:

    75. Now the only-begotten Son of God embraced us in His infinite knowledge and undying love even before the world began. And that He might give a visible and exceedingly beautiful expression to this love, He assumed our nature in hypostatic union: hence -as Maximus of Turin with a certain unaffected simplicity remarks — “in Christ our own flesh loves us [156] But the knowledge and love of our Divine Redeemer, of which we were the object from the first moment of His Incarnation, exceed all the human intellect can hope to grasp. For hardly was He conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when He began to enjoy the beatific vision, and in that vision all the members of His Mystical Body were continually and unceasingly present to Him, and He embraced them with His redeeming love. O marvelous condescension of divine love for us! O inestimable dispensation of boundless charity. In the crib, on the Cross, in the unending glory of the Father, Christ has all the members of the Church present before Him and united to Him in a much clearer and more loving manner than that of a mother who clasps her child to her breast, or than that with which a man knows and loves himself.

    86. For some there are who neglect the fact that the Apostle Paul has used metaphorical language in speaking of this doctrine, and failing to distinguish as they should the precise and proper meaning of the terms the physical body, the social body, and the mystical Body, arrive at a distorted idea of unity. They make the Divine Redeemer and the members of the Church coalesce in one physical person, and while they bestow divine attributes on man, they make Christ our Lord subject to error and to human inclination to evil. But Catholic faith and the writings of the holy Fathers reject such false teaching as impious and sacrilegious; and of the mind of the Apostle of the Gentiles it is equally abhorrent, for although he brings Christ and His Mystical Body into a wonderfully intimate union, he nevertheless distinguishes one from the other as Bridegroom from Bride. [166]

    There are other statements, which I could look up, if necessary.

    The Chicken

  22. Benedict Joseph says:

    Tzabiega hit more than one nail right on the head. Bravo!

  23. Pingback: Did the Young Christ beg forgiveness from His parents? |

  24. paladin says:

    ” So it emerges clearly here that he thought and learned in human fashion.” (Pope Benedict XVI, quoted by Polycarpio)

    EXACTLY. There’s no heresy in, for example, thinking that Jesus didn’t know the Hebrew word for “bread” until He was taught it. There’s no heresy in thinking that Jesus made errors in carpentry as he was learning from St. Joseph. I also don’t think that there’s any heresy in the idea of Jesus *overestimating* the abilities and knowledge of his parents (i.e. “they know Me, they know God, so they surely must know that I’m here at the temple, and they’re okay with it!”). I also completely agree with the idea (whether or not Pope Francis actually intended it) that the “apology without fault, for the unintended inconvenience” is perfectly apropos, here.

  25. surritter says:

    However, does all this mean that Jesus NEVER apologized for anything? (I’m asking this in all sincerity.) While walking among the crowds, what if he accidentally bumped into someone. Would he turn and graciously say, “I’m sorry about that”? I could certainly picture that. [This is an entirely different matter.]
    I’m trying to highlight the idea that to apologize does not mean that someone has sinned. An apology can be for innocent things that are just part of living with other people. With this in mind, could Jesus have apologized to Mary and Joseph for inadvertently causing them some stress?

  26. Rushintuit says:

    I continue to be dumbfounded by people who give any credibility to anything this Pope says. This guy puts a homosexual in charge of the Vatican Bank. His highest priorities are not the salvation of souls, but things like global warming.

    You Father Z, like the FSSP, have signed off on the heresies of Vatican II and the Novus Ordo. Then you mix heresy and orthodox Catholic teaching every day in your blog. Your blog banner suggesting Pope John Paul II be made a Doctor of the Church, is a startling example of how far down the rabbit hole “conservative” Catholics have traveled.

  27. JMJT says:

    Father, Thank you for bringing up the topic. Have you heard of a new movie about the young Christ child? I’d like to see it but given this post, I wonder if it may go a bit Nestorian based on the clips and trailer.

    The movie is being marketed to Catholics and Christian leaders now for a spring 2016 release and has accolades from Bishops and Catholic leaders.

    THE YOUNG MESSIAH – Trailer – In Theaters March 2016

    “The inspiring and unique story of seven-year-old Jesus Christ and his family as they come to a fuller understanding of His divine nature and purpose.”


    The trailer has our Lady supposedly telling the young Christ Child about her experience of the Annunciation, saying to “listen well, because I am only going to tell the story once.”
    “it (the light) spoke to me” instead of Angel Gabriel. “what do we tell our little boy?” “how do we explain God to His own Son?”
    The ad says:
    “When the mystery of Jesus’ divinity begins to unfold He turns to His parents for guidance
    But Mary and Joseph in an effort to protect their child are afraid to reveal all they know
    …how do you help the savior who came to save you?”

    It is based on a book written by Anne Rice…
    It is being recommended for children.


    Fr. Z, I wonder if you have seen it or would think it is ok for children ages 4 to 10 who are learning the faith? Is it wrong to say Jesus did not always know He was God?

  28. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Trying desperately not to smile while I write this, but as I’m chiming in, it just happens to be at a location on the page where the combox has scrolled almost adjacent to Fr Z.’s list of some of the items in Michael Sean Winters’ tackle box.
    Thanks for posting that Padre , and for posting this:

    Fr Z. said :”Scripture doesn’t tell us what the Lord did on the way back home to Nazareth, but I am pretty sure He didn’t apologize for being about His Father’s business.”

    I agree wholeheartedly. Technically speaking, Jesus would have to have done something wrong in order to apologize according to the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word:

    Express regret for something that one has done wrong.

    I remember hearing a homily once during Mass, on this passage of scripture and at certain point the homilist started waving his arms frantically, exclaiming into the microphone, “Jesus was a runaway!” (And all I wanted to do at that moment was to run away. . . far enough to a location where I wouldn’t be subjected to hearing such garbage.)

    I’ve read and heard numerous attempts at explaining this passage over the years, and more often than not, they converge on something my dad used to call “the paralysis of analysis.”

    Sometimes, things happen for mystical reasons which only God can fully know.

    Personally, I try to focus on the suffering aspect :

    “And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: ‘Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.’ “

    We know our Blessed Mother suffered great sorrow at the foot of the Cross where she became our Mother. But she unites herself to Christ’s sorrowful mission even before the Finding in the Temple , according to the General Audience given by St. John-Paul II on December 18,1996 entitled MARY HAS ROLE IN JESUS’ SAVING MISSION :

    “Beginning with Simeon’s prophecy, Mary intensely and mysteriously unites her life with Christ’s sorrowful mission: she was to become her Son’s faithful coworker for the salvation of the human race.”

    St Joseph had a different role to fulfill, and tradition says he died before Christ’s public mission began. Yet , he also would feel the great sorrow and the grief associated with the sense of loss of their Christ and he surely would’ve shared in our Blessed Mother’s heartfelt grief through the three days they were searching.

    Suffering is mysterious and suffering is redemptive.

  29. DisturbedMary says:

    I went back to Ven. Maria de Agreda “Mystical City of God” Book 3 (The Transfixion) Chapter V:
    WITH THE TEACHERS. (You can download the entire work and read it online from http://www.stellamarismedia.com/book_city_of_god.html)
    While there is so much more about Jesus and his teaching the scholars, paragraphs 55 and 56 go directly to the finding moment…..
    55. Other arguments did the Child Jesus add, and
    while seeming to ask questions He taught with a divine
    efficacy. The scribes and learned men who heard Him
    were all dumbfounded. Convinced by his arguments
    they looked at each other and in great astonishment
    asked: “What miracle is this? and what prodigy of a
    boy ! Whence has He come and who is the Child “; But
    though thus astonished, they did not recognize or suspect
    who it was, that thus taught and enlightened them
    concerning such an important truth. During this time
    and before Jesus had finished his argument, his most
    holy Mother and saint Joseph her most chaste spouse
    arrived, just in time to hear him advance his last arguments.
    When He had finished, all the teachers of the
    law arose with stupendous amazement. The heavenly
    Lady, absorbed in joy, approached her most loving Son
    and in the presence of the whole assembly, spoke to Him
    the words recorded by saint Luke : “Son, why hast Thou
    done so to us? Behold thy father and I have sought
    Thee sorrowing * (Luke 4, 48). This loving complaint
    the heavenly Mother uttered with equal reverence and
    affection, adoring Him as God and manifesting her
    maternal affliction. The Lord answered: “Why is it
    that you sought Me ? Did you not know that I must be
    about my Father s business”;
    56. The Evangelist says that they did not understand
    the mystery of these words (Luke 2, 50) ; for it was
    hidden at the time to most holy Mary and saint Joseph.
    And for two reasons; on the one hand, the interior joy
    of now reaping what they had sown in so much sorrow,
    and the visible presence of their precious Treasure, entirely
    filled the faculties of their souls; and on the other
    hand, the time for the full comprehension of what had just
    been treated of in this discussion had not yet arrived
    for them. Moreover, for the most solicitous Queen there
    was another hindrance just at that time, and it was, that
    the veil, concealing the interior of her most holy Son
    had again intervened and was not removed until some
    time later. The learned men departed, commenting in
    their amazement upon the wonderful event, by which
    they had been privileged to hear the teaching of eternal
    Wisdom, though they did not recognize it. Being thus
    left almost alone, the blessed Mother, embracing Him
    with maternal affection, said to Him: “Permit my longing
    heart, my son, to give expression to its sorrow and
    pain ; so that it may not die of grief as long as it can be
    of use to Thee. Do not cast me off from thy sight; but
    accept me as thy slave. If it was my negligence, which
    deprived me of thy presence, pardon me and make me
    worthy of thy company, and do not punish me with
    thy absence”; The divine Child received Her with signs
    of pleasure and offered Himself as her Teacher and
    Companion until the proper time should arrive. Thus
    was the dove-like and affectionate heart of the great
    Lady appeased, and They departed for Nazareth.

  30. iamlucky13 says:

    @ The Masked Chicken,

    Thank you for your response. However, while your references do clearly condemn ascribing to Christ the fallen human inclination towards sin; and they also state Christ participated in the Beatific Vision even before birth; I do not see that they make clear the latter is a teaching de fide, nor clearly condemn the idea that Jesus may have in some way only taken advantage of limited human mental powers in His early life, despite possessing the Beatific Vision, just as he usually (with the obvious exception of when performing miracles) only took advantage of limited human physical powers despite possessing His full divine powers.

    I looked up those quotes in the encyclical itself for more context, and still don’t see it certain that the idea of Jesus somehow limiting His initial earthly knowledge is completely out of the question. In part, I’m hesitant due to the fact that the encyclical does not go into further detail about how Jesus experienced the Beatific Vision, and in part, due to an imperfect understanding on my part how closely the content of an encyclical relates to dogma. After all, the point was made multiple times in discussions of Laudato Si that the content of an encyclical is not automatically de fide.

    Again, this hypothetical limitation of Christ’s knowledge strikes me as almost certainly incorrect and I can’t fathom how it could work with His two natures united in one person, but then again, how the hypostatic union itself works is also a mystery. Of more practical concern, the excerpts from Mystici Corporus Christi don’t seem to give me a complete response to anybody who in the future proposes this argument.

    It does seem worth presenting Mystici Corporus and the writings of St. John of Damascus as at least a significant counter-argument, so I’ve gained something. Furthermore, I have yet to see writings from any of the Church fathers that support the idea that Jesus was at any time unaware of His divinity, so I am much more confident that the priest who claimed as much matter-of-factly should have at most presented it as speculation, or even better, have kept his speculation within scholarly circles, instead of proposing it to laymen in a homily.

  31. Mariana2 says:

    Thanks to the commentators explaining about Bar Mitzvah at 12! I thought it was 13; makes all the difference.

  32. Augustine says:

    Who can’t tell a story about a fellow colleague at a parish Bible study who would pontificate such pious conjectures every class? Though we might tolerate such utterances as poorly informed piety, it’s hard to do the same to the supreme ruler and teacher of the Catholic Church.

  33. my kidz mom says:

    Father, thank you for this post. It will help us speak to issues raised by the upcoming movie, The Young Messiah. From the movie’s website: “When the mystery of Jesus’s divinity begins to unfold in His early years, He turns to His parents for answers. But Mary and Joseph, in an effort to protect their child, are afraid to reveal all they know.” The trailer includes Mary advising 7yo Jesus to “keep your power inside you, until your Father in Heaven shows you the time to use it.”


  34. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Polycarpio – Pope Benedict was talking about human experiential knowledge and human ways of thinking and phrasing, which presumably would not interfere with the Beatific Vision or with divine omniscience and omnipotence.

    Let us picture Jesus learning to play an instrument, like a shepherd pipe. As God, Jesus would know every atom of the pipe, every bit of musical theory, and every tune ever written. But as a human, He probably would choose to learn fingering and tonguing and embouchure from a human who knew how to play. As God, He could have commanded His human body to play everything perfectly on the first try, but as a human, He would probably choose to teach His body to play through long hours of practice. [What do you want to be that he would be a fast learner.] After all, He became Man in order to dwell among us and be like us in everything but sin.

    The same thing was true of His human brain and soul. Without dropping His omniscience, He could choose to learn language like a human, to do pattern recognition like a human, to see a shape in a piece of wood and whittle out a decoration like a human. His word was divine, but His puns and songs were also human.

  35. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Furthermore, I have yet to see writings from any of the Church fathers that support the idea that Jesus was at any time unaware of His divinity, so I am much more confident that the priest who claimed as much matter-of-factly should have at most presented it as speculation, or even better, have kept his speculation within scholarly circles, instead of proposing it to laymen in a homily.”

    I have other paper reference books with more substantial quotes from a variety of sources. If I can, I’ll see if I can find them. It has been the constant teaching of the Church that Christ enjoyed the Beatific vision from conception. Since Christ would know himself in the Beatific vision, it, necessarily, follows that he knew he was divine from that vision. When Scripture says (Lk 2 : 40):

    “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”

    and (Lk 2 : 52):

    “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

    The growing could have been physical. As for wisdom, Jewish writings make a distinction between practical wisdom and spiritual wisdom. The Greek in both cases is, sophia, which can indicate either, so it might be either, but in both passages, growth in height is mentioned in parallel with wisdom, so this suggests the wisdom is practical wisdom (how to tie shoes, etc.). The third clause mentions being in favor with God, but, again, that is no help.

    There is a statement in scholasticism that you can’t give what you don’t have. It seems strange to be divine and not know it. How would that even work?

    Fr. William Most was a prolific writer on theological issues. He wrote a book, The Consciousness of Christ, which is available, on-line. It goes into these issues:


    The Chicken

  36. acricketchirps says:

    surritter: While walking among the crowds, what if he accidentally bumped into someone. Would he turn and graciously say, “I’m sorry about that”? I could certainly picture that. Fr.Z {in red} [This is an entirely different matter.]

    I can’t picture Jesus accidentally bumping into anyone–nay, I can’t picture Him doing anything “by accident.”

  37. Grumpy Beggar says:

    To complete the thought on the Finding in the Temple from the perspective of suffering:
    It is surely notable that every person who was close to Jesus would suffer the terrible pain of losing Him during his passion and death . . . Mary Magdalen , Peter , all the disciples and followers – his dear Mother Mary . . . every person who was close to Him , except that is, for St Joseph. How can that be ?

    Whatever this loss of God consists of , it is profound enough and essentially wrapped up enough in our human nature that even Our Blessed Lord Jesus would cry out from the Cross , “My God, my God , why have you forsaken me?”

    It is clear from Scripture that St. Joseph – Jesus’ legal father also, along with his dear wife, loved Jesus tenderly : [DRV] “behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”

    So if we consider that everyone who was close to Jesus had to suffer the pain of losing him – (for three days) : That St. Joseph (who could not be among them at the Passion and Crucifixion) would also need to benefit somehow by suffering this pain of the loss of Jesus –and this, not only as Joseph the human being – but also as Joseph – Jesus’ legal father and as the husband of Mary -(sharing together with her the pain of the loss of Jesus) , then, the Finding in the Temple becomes a very nice fit. . . rather than something requiring a potentially overly-complicated explanation.

    Suffering is mysterious and suffering is redemptive.

  38. Pingback: Did Jesus Ask For Forgiveness? | SunesisPress

  39. Imrahil says:

    Concerning our Lord’s age, it seems that he was considered right between beginning adulthood and ending childhood; that, at any rate, is the traditional explanation for the otherwise mysterious fact that our Lord’s parents “were supposing he was somewhere in the pilgrims’ group” and did not miss Him until suddenly finding out, on the evening of the first day of the trip back home, that He wasn’t.

    The reason is the following (I’ve read that both from Hans Conrad Zander and from Fr Abraham a Sancta Clara, but the Church fathers may have commented in that way too):

    it was (I hear) customary that men and women did their pilgrimage in separated groups. So, St. Joseph assumed that the boy was with his mother, as a child would; while our Lady assumed that he was in the male group along with his foster-father, as an adult.

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