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Charlene Bader reflects on Mary's Third Sorrow, the loss of the Child Jesus in the temple, in light of our basic human desire to be chosen.

"Can you find me in this photo, Mom? Can you point to me?" 

It's a game easily ignored on any busier morning, but Providence and a rainy day made me unusually amenable to getting tugged from picture to picture around the house. My chirpy 4-year-old beamed as we searched for his small image in our crowded family photos. 

One of our basic human desires is to be chosen: for someone to see us, know us, like us, and desire a special relationship with us.

Do you remember feeling chosen as a child? 

Maybe your parents told you they were happy you were born. Maybe someone took time to listen to your joke or story. Maybe they took you on a special trip or planned a day just for the two of you, wrote you a letter or called just to chat. 

When we experience the joy of being chosen, it affirms great truth: I am unique, I have great worth, my life has purpose. When our desire to be chosen goes unmet, it can cause us to believe lies about ourselves: I'm not special, lovable, smart enough, attractive enough, nice enough, rich enough, professional enough, perfect enough … 

This is the third post in a series on the seven basic human desires (to be affirmed, safe, chosen, touched, included, blessed, heard and understood) in light of Mary's Seven Sorrows. Today, let's consider our basic human desire to be chosen as we reflect on Mary's Third Sorrow, The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple. 

In Luke 2, we read Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover when he was 12 years old. On the return trip home, Mary and Joseph search for Jesus in their crowded caravan of friends and family for a full day only to realize they've left him behind in Jerusalem. It takes them another two days to find Jesus in the temple, conversing with an astonished and captivated group of religious leaders. 

In Mary and Joseph's search for Jesus, we see the passion of a mother and father desperate to find a beloved child. They can't give up. They can't just bring home a different kid. They can't just have a baby and forget about pre-teen Jesus. This loss of their child isn't a void that can be filled by any other child. (Let's rest for a moment in the affirmation that God feels this same way about each of us. Each person is deeply special and unrepeatable to God.) 

How affirming for Jesus to see the love of his parents when he was lost to them, to realize how unique and irreplaceably special He is to them. Upon finding Jesus with teachers in the temple, Mary exclaims, “Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48

And then, a beautiful reciprocation happens: Jesus also chooses Mary and Joseph. 

Despite his longing to be in the temple — a place Jesus feels close to God, his Father, a place He's welcomed and applauded and admired by the teachers, a place they'd surely invite him to stay longer — Jesus chooses instead to go home with Mary and Joseph: 

He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:51

It must have been an overwhelmingly joyful experience for Mary and Joseph to be chosen by Jesus. Mary pondered this experience among all of the other holy mysteries she collected in her heart during Jesus' life.

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Since the world often chooses those who are particularly spectacular — the most talented, charming, beautiful, well-spoken, useful, accomplished, decorated — we might think we need to be a particular kind of person for God to choose us. But in addition to Mary and Joseph, look at the people Jesus "chose" to be in a special relationship with: social pariahs, tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners, people angry with the government, people who worked for the government, people dissatisfied with the mainstream religious beliefs of their day … Do you believe God has chosen you also, that God desires a unique, affirming, loving relationship with just you? 


Do you believe God has chosen you also, that God desires a unique, affirming, loving relationship with just you? #catholicmom

How is this basic human desire to be chosen fulfilled in your life? As a parent, how can you help your child feel chosen, sincerely known and irreplaceably loved by you for who they are?

This is the third in a series on Mary's Seven Sorrows in light of our seven basic human desires. The first post is Sorrow, Prophecy, and the Desire to Be Affirmed. The second post is Sorrow, Escape, and the Desire to Be Safe.

For more on the seven basic human desires, check out Seven Desires: Looking Past What Separates Us to Learn What Connects Us by Mark & Debra Laaser.

Copyright 2021 Charlene Bader
Image: Kristyn Lapp (2020), Unsplash