Faith that Works

Teaching middle schoolers how to live and practice their faith

Right now, this third word of Mary in the Gospels is resonating strongly with me. After spending time in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, Mary and Joseph head back to Nazareth, only to realize that 12 year old Jesus is not with the travelling group. They make their way back to the temple, and by the time they find Jesus, he has been missing for three days. In Luke Chapter 2 verse 48, Mary asks Jesus, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”

During this time of quarantine, I feel like Mary and Joseph. I am desperately searching for God’s plan for me in a time of great anxiety and I want to ask him “why have you done this to us?” For the first time ever, I did not make my Lenten obligation of confession or my Easter obligation to receive communion. I know these are most likely dispensed, but the disquiet in my heart continues. But Jesus is still here, waiting for me. “Why were you looking for me?” He must be here, in my house.

Here are some ideas for a week based on “Why have you done this to us?”:

Read the Finding in the Temple in the Bible. Students could read the scripture and study it using the Lectio Divina scripture study method. I have a pre-made version in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, but you could easily do as a whole class bible study or prayer journal activity.

Compare the Story of the Finding in the Temple to the Story of the Crucifixion. You can find the story of Jesus’s passion in all four gospels, but this exercise would be especially powerful using John’s gospel because Mary is so present in his retelling of the crucifxion. (John’s passion is in chapters 18 and 19.) Some points of similarity between the two stories to find with your students: Jesus comforting Mary, although probably not in the way she would like, the timing of the events (Passover), the three days in the tomb vs. the three days in the Temple, and I’m sure there are even more.

Prayer Journal. I think it’s important for young people to know that feeling disappointed in God is a normal struggle of faith. I’ve always had a hard time with speakers and writers who claim that God never disappoints. However, like Mary in the story, our disappointment in God stems from our lack of understanding of his plan for our lives. Sometimes journalling after a painful and disappointing experience can give us insight into God’s plan or closure about what happened.
Here are some questions that could help students prayer journal using the story of Mary finding Jesus in the Temple. Have you ever wanted to ask Jesus how could you do this about something that is happening in your life? If so, when? Looking back on a time when you felt disappointed in God, can you see anything good that came out of the situation? Did you learning anything? What causes you anxiety? Have you asked Jesus to help you find peace? Could you ask him now?

Do a Guided Meditation about Anxiety. You could find a script online or create your own if you want to lead the class. I really like the ones by Mindful Christian on Youtube. I’ve used them in my class for several years and the students get a kick out of the leader’s accent.

Go “Find Jesus” in the Blessed Sacrament. I’ve written before about the power of Eucharistic Adoration in the lives of middle schoolers, and I really believe that the more we can expose students to this type of prayer, the better. Obviously right now, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is not available to many Catholics, but my hope is that by the next school year it will be.

Mary’s fourth word and more Mary ideas coming soon!

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