Any parent who has lost a child for even a few minutes in a crowded place can understand Our Lady’s concern when she realized that Jesus was missing. In first-century Palestine, large caravans generally travelled in two groups, men and women, and the children moved freely between them. So neither Mary nor Joseph noticed their son’s absence until camp was set up at the end of the day.
Perhaps Jesus had wandered off along the road, curious as any twelve-year-old, and then lost his way. Maybe he stayed behind in the crowded city, packed well beyond its usual population with feast-day pilgrims—and maybe some pickpockets and kidnappers as well. What a sleepless night Mary and Joseph must have had before retracing the way back to Jerusalem the next morning to look for him. Or maybe they set out immediately, searching in the darkness.
Mary and Joseph had grown so accustomed to their son’s presence, and now he was gone, his absence sudden and unexpected. The only way they could satisfy their profound sense of emptiness, their sense of loss, was to look for Jesus everywhere they could.
Occasionally we too lose our sense of Our Lord’s presence. When we pray, we may feel as if we were talking to thin air. Or in the midst of some difficulty we may wonder, “Where has God gone?” Perhaps we’ve lost our sense of Our Lord’s presence because of our busyness, our indifference, or a pattern of sin.
Mary sought her missing son with longing and perseverance. She didn’t give up the search until she found him. Let’s follow her example. Let us eagerly seek Jesus every day of our lives.