By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published February 4, 2010
It’s a scene in St. Luke’s Gospel that sends shivers up and down my spine. Mary and Joseph have lost their boy on a journey, and it takes three days to find him. At first, this seems improbable, until you realize they were traveling in a crowd, and it would be easy to assume Jesus was with another relative.
But then came the stunning realization that he was missing, which sent them into a tailspin of fear.
The scene reminds me of the times I’ve also lost him. Once it was intentional: In college, I purposely turned my back on him. And when I came back to the fold, at first his presence was so vivid that I was sure I would never lose him again. But there are still times today when I lose him. Prayer seems mechanical and dry. You say the words, you go to Mass, you thumb through the prayer books, but you keep looking around: Where is he?
If you have ever lost someone you love dearly, you know how a phone ringing can make you think, for just a second, that it is your beloved, who never really died. Or if you’re in a crowd, you find yourself scanning the faces, looking for that one face that holds the promise of your happiness.
We can’t blame the Lord for going missing on us. He told us in Revelation that he stands outside the door of our hearts, waiting to be invited in. But sometimes we forget the door is there. As for me, I become so ensnared by my tangle of worries that I can’t hear him knocking.
Right now there are my sister’s and my aunt’s upcoming surgeries, which are churning around in my worry machine. “Lord, I’ll give these to you, but first let me turn them over and over in my heart.” And as the days roll on, I become trapped in the web of worries.
I can even lose sight of Jesus at Mass. There he is, on the altar, and my mind is starting to stray. Before long, I’m paying more attention to a baby in the pew than to the Lord himself. When I realize it, I feel terrible and start berating myself, and the Lord fades further off into the distance.
But there are times when he is so close, especially when I’m in the adoration chapel and it’s all quiet, and the light is slanting in, golden and soft, through the windows. Sometimes it seems the Host is lit up with its very own halo. But then the world calls me away. “Jesus, I’d like to stay longer, but there’s this shopping I just have to do.” “Jesus, I have to go now; I have a writing deadline.”
When Joseph and Mary found Jesus again, after the three-day separation, he was in the temple, his Father’s house. They told their boy in no uncertain terms that they were upset. Mary said they’d been searching for him “in great anxiety.” He answered, “Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?”
He is still there in his Father’s house, in the tabernacle, in the Host. He is still there in our hearts and in the hearts of other people. He is still going about his Father’s business, loving us and serving us. And he is still there, waiting for us to find him.
Lorraine’s latest books are “The Abbess of Andalusia: Flannery O’Connor’s Spiritual Journey” and “Death in the Choir,” a mystery set in Decatur. Artwork for this column is by Jef Murray. The Murrays are parishioners at St. Thomas More Church. Readers may e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.