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Jan. 7, 2019 - The 'Ordinary' Jesus

Monday after Epiphany

Scripture Readings

I recently listened to a talk by Fr. James Martin about Jesus’ “hidden life”- that time between 12 years of age when we hear about Jesus in the temple with his parents until he begins his ministry at age 30. Fr. Martin explains how through archaeologists and other experts studying this time period, we have a peek into what it would be like to live and grow up in Nazareth.   When we reflect on the majority of Jesus’ life before He began to preach the Good News, He lived a very simple, ordinary life.  It is this ordinary everyday life that prepares Jesus to go forth and share the Gospel.

As disciples we are called to follow Jesus and keep His commands.  How can we live like Jesus in the midst of the challenges of this world? Thinking about Jesus living in a family, going to work, spending time with friends helps to reassure me that our everyday living is an important part of following Him.  Since Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit, He is able to live every moment in grace.  Jesus invites us to live as He does through the outpouring of His Spirit in our lives. It is the “Spirit of Truth” that John talks about in today’s first reading that helps us to know Jesus and to love as He loves. 

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus moves from His home in Nazareth to Capernaum. In some ways He moves from the ordinary to the extraordinary as Jesus begins “proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and curing every disease and illness among the people.”  Although Jesus is filled with the Spirit, His time spent in Nazareth may have helped prepare Him for some of the challenges He would face in His ministry. His experiences help Him create narratives or stories that will resonate with the people who hear him preach.  Those listening will know about vineyards, planting seeds, sheep tending and cooking. Jesus knows about these things from His “hidden life”.  Jesus knows the value of hard work and He most probably knows what it means to be poor and on the margins.  According to Fr. Martin, living as a carpenter was something that put Jesus on the lower levels of his society. Could this be one of the reasons, that Jesus is partial to those on the periphery? Having lived in Nazareth may have helped Him know that every person has value. .The gospel tells us that many people from across the region follow Jesus because of the signs that they have seen.  They see the “extraordinary” in this ordinary man.

How does reflecting on Jesus and His “hidden life” help us to become better disciples?  In any relationship or friendship, the more you know about the individual and his or her past history, the easier it is to understand and love that person. Knowing that Jesus lived an ordinary life in a family and community helps us to know that Jesus gets it- He has been through many of the ups and downs of life that we experience every day. Jesus knows what “living life” means, so it much easier to share with Him our concerns, needs, or frustrations.

 It seems like Jesus spent the great majority of His life living under the radar. Certainly His ministry, passion, death and resurrection are the pinnacle of Jesus’ life, but reflecting on the quiet, hidden life of Jesus gives me a sense of hope and joy. Since we are called to be like Jesus, He shows us that living ordinary lives- maybe even hidden- can be a source of grace. Could these ordinary times spent in openness to the Spirit, seeking God in our daily tasks be a way that we can grow to be more like Christ?

We know that Jesus has “come in the flesh” and therefore we belong to God. May the human life of Jesus help us recognize the grace of God within our lives, so we can be like Him and bring His light to the world.

Loving Father, Your Son Jesus shows the magnitude of Your love as He comes to be one of us here on earth.  May Your Spirit enliven us so we can find Your presence in our daily lives, and may we love one another as we are called to do.  We pray this through Christ, our LORD. Amen.

Marylynn Herchline