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Michelle Hamel ponders the trust and faithfulness shown by Mary and Joseph in the story of the Third Sorrow of Mary: the Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days.

For the last several weeks I've been praying and pondering about the Third Sorrow of Mary, the Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days, as part of a larger writing project that I'm working on. It's the last of Mary's Sorrows that St. Joseph is a part of and his presence within Mary's suffering is worth diving into a little deeper.  

What really stood out for me in this particular sorrow were the faithfulness and trust of Mary and Joseph that weaves throughout the Gospel story. When I picture the scene in my head, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus have just finished celebrating Passover in Jerusalem with all of their relatives and friends and have started the long 91-mile trek back to Nazareth. It was a multiple-day journey where men and women traveled in separate caravans. Because of Jesus' age at the time, it would have been appropriate for Him to travel with either group.

When they finally stop to rest for the night, I can imagine Mary seeking out Joseph. Can you imagine their eyes meeting in the crowd of family and friends and the smile they shared at being reunited? Maybe they gave each other a short embrace as Mary asked, looking around expectantly, "Where's Jesus?"

I can also feel the anxiety that they both might have felt as Joseph answered, "I thought He was with you?" 




What followed next was not a blame game. There wasn't any bickering between Mary and Joseph, blaming the other about who should have been in charge of Jesus or who should have noticed Jesus wasn't there. Even in their worry, Mary and Joseph just focused on the next right thing, which was to search among their friends and family for Jesus. As they asked each person, hearing "I haven't seen Him" over and over again must have been heart-wrenching. 

With anxiety in their hearts, Mary and Joseph did the next right thing and started the long trek back to Jerusalem, where they did not find Jesus right away. I can imagine all of the silent pleas leaving both Mary and Joseph’s hearts asking God to protect Jesus and for assistance to find him safe and unharmed as they leaned on each other for support. They were the Holy Family, but they were not spared from grief and worry.  

When they find Jesus, Mary speaks for both herself and Joseph and is honest about their feelings.

“Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:48)


Mary and Joseph don't sweep their feelings under a rug, nor do they completely freak out from their fear. They don't threaten to ground Jesus for the next 10 years. Instead, they honestly ask why this happened and wait for His answer: 

“Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)

They did not understand this, but 

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)  


Mary and Joseph show us how to walk through really difficult and traumatic circumstances by relying on God's grace. Even when the fear they suffered was resolved without understanding why it happened, they both continued to do the next right thing: to return to Nazareth together as a family. Even after going through something so traumatic, Mary and Joseph didn't close their hearts off. They didn't fall into self-sufficiency or self-protection to try and shield their hearts from further fear or pain. Mary and Joseph leaned in to God and trusted Him to reveal His truth in His timing to their hearts. 




How can we use this example given to us by Mary and Joseph?

How can we search for Jesus and stay faithful in our own lives? How can we trust God even when we don't understand why we are on a painful path we can't make sense of? 

This Gospel story has been such a consolation for me lately. Seeing Mary and Joseph's example of faithfulness in a time of great anxiety is so encouraging and inspiring. When you're going through a hard time, it helps so much to know you aren't alone. Others have experienced hard times too, suffered well, and made it through. Like Mary and Joseph, we will find Jesus again. Even if we don't understand why we were on a particular path, we have Mary's example of what to do: we can keep things "in our heart" and allow God to help us to process everything with Him and in His time.  

Let's ask Saint Joseph to intercede for us and send us consolation and endurance where we find ourselves searching for Jesus in our own lives. Saint Joseph, pray for us! 


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Copyright 2024 Michelle Hamel
Images: Holy Cross Family Ministries