Fulton Sheen On the Dark Night

Fulton Sheen in his book The Life of Christ takes a deeper look at the finding of Jesus in the temple. The narrative sets up that Jesus, now being old enough to participate in the feasts, goes with His parents to Jerusalem—to the temple. The scene is very interesting, as Mary and Joseph would have traveled by caravan and assumed that Jesus was with other relatives. After a period of time, it becomes known to Mary and Joseph that Jesus has not been traveling with him, so with frantic speed, they return to Jerusalem to look for their child.

Jesus was lost for three days, no doubt a sign for what was to come in His life, and finally finding Him in the temple. During this period, Sheen speaks about the experience being Mary’s “dark night of the soul in Jerusalem.” (Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ, p. 47)

People often ask what should be our approach toward God in our prayer life when we have fallen into sin. I have been thinking about how we should imitate Mary and Joseph’s frantic search in this part of Jesus’ life. They have lost God and scour the countryside back to Jerusalem to find Him. Fulton Sheen examines this very point writing, “though she was without sin, nevertheless she knew their fears and the loneliness, the darkness and the isolation which every sinner experienced when he loses God. (Ibid)

When Mary and Joseph finally find Jesus in the temple, Mary approaches Jesus and says, “My Son, why hast Thou treated us so?” Anyone who has experienced some period of pain experiences these words of Mary with a new intimacy. There comes a time in many of our lives when we look toward heaven and ask our Lord,”Why have you done this to me?” Mary’s words are a beautiful reflection of prayer. It’s is an understanding of a theology of redemptive suffering. As with the man, who the disciples asked, “Did his parents sin or he?” Our pain is made perfect by God’s grace, his grace is sufficient enough.

2 thoughts on “Fulton Sheen On the Dark Night

  1. Nicholas

    I think this episode illustrates well the point about priorities that Christ made every so often in his earthly life. A sequence that I have often pondered in this vein comes from the 1981 film “Excalibur” (spoilers).

    Guinevere is accused by Sir Gawain of adultery with Sir Lancelot. The accusation is made in public at the Round Table, and Arthur rises from his seat in anger drawing his sword and pointing it at Sir Gawain. He shouts, “Were I not King, I would kill you where you stand.”

    The matter is referred to trial by combat. On the eve of the trial, Guinevere and Arthur are speaking alone in their chambers. Guinevere complains that Arthur will not fight for her. He says, “I am your judge in this. I must be your King before I am your husband. Our laws must govern everyone in the land – high and low – otherwise they are not laws at all.”

    This I think is relevant to the sequence in Jerusalem – “Did you not know I must be about My Father’s business?” – and similar ones in the Gospels. Jesus cares about all things in our lives, but some things are more important than others. The mission comes first, as NEO would say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed Neo would! He would also point out that this scene, well-chosen though it is to make your point, speaks very loudly to our common tradition of the rule of law, not men. In a time when so many forget our heritage, both are excellent and timely reminders.

      Liked by 1 person

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