MY CATHOLIC FAITH
XXXII. The Hidden Life of Jesus Christ
After the finding in the Temple, Jesus returned with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth. There He lived with them, doing all He could to help His Mother and St. Joseph in their work. Jesus, God Himself, obeyed mortals because He wanted to set us an example. He lived a life of obedience, humility, and poverty in Nazareth till He was about thirty years old, This hidden life teaches us, among other things, the value in the eyes of God, of prayer, humility and obedience.
How may the life of Jesus Christ be divided? –The life of Jesus Christ may be divided into three parts: His childhood to the time when He was twelve years old; His hidden life, to the time when He started His teaching; and His public life, to the time of His death.
After the murder of the Holy Innocents, the Child Jesus lived in Egypt with His mother and St. Joseph until the death of Herod, then returned with them to the Holy Land.
An angel appeared to Joseph and said, “Arise, and take the Child and his Mother, and go into the land of Israel” (Matt. 2:20). Just as St. Joseph had obeyed without question when told to take the Child to Egypt, so now he obeyed, knowing that God Who watches over the birds of the air would watch over those given into his charge.
The Holy Family lived in Nazareth. From there, every year Mary and Joseph went to worship at the Temple of Jerusalem. When Jesus was twelve years old, He went along with His parents to celebrate the Pasch at Jerusalem. Then Mary and Joseph left the city to return to Nazareth, but Jesus remained behind without their knowledge.
“But thinking that he was in the caravan, they had come a day’s journey before it occurred to them to look for him among their relatives and acquaintances. And not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem in search of him” (Luke 2:44-45) We can only imagine the distress of Mary and Joseph upon having lost Jesus, most precious to them, the Child that had been entrusted to their care. And what was their joy when after three days search they found Him in the Temple, in the midst of the wise men there, hearing and questioning them! Mary told how great had been her grief when she said, “Behold, thy father and I have been seeking thee sorrowing” (Luke 2:48). But Jesus replied, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49)
Jesus dearly loved Mary and Joseph, but He did not hesitate to cause them pain and part from them, in order to obey His heavenly Father’s will. In imitation of Him, many young people leave home and their dear parents, to enter the priesthood or a religious congregation, to serve God completely.
Some non-Catholic interpreters insist that Jesus had brothers, that He was not the only Son of Mary. Those spoken of in the Gospels as the “brethren” of Our Lord (Matt. 13:55), were His blood relatives; it was the practice among the Jews to call near relatives “brethren”.
So Abraham called his nephew Lot in this manner: “Let there be no quarrel between me and thee…. for we are brethren” (Gen. 13:8). As St. John Chrysostom wrote, Our Lord on the cross would not have needed to commend His Mother to his Apostle John, if she had had other children.
How long did the hidden life of Jesus Christ last? –The hidden life of Jesus Christ lasted from His return to Nazareth at the age of twelve until He entered into public life, at the age of thirty.
Of this part of Christ’s life all we directly read from Holy Scripture are two statements: “And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them…. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and men” (Luke 2:51, 52). In these two sentences is contained the history of eighteen years of the life of Jesus Christ, the God-Man.
In the Temple, at the early age of twelve, Jesus had proved His wisdom before the doctors of the law. As St. Luke writes, “And all who were listening to him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47). But did He continue after this unusual and favourable beginning; did He stay on to preach His doctrine? No; instead, He meekly followed His parents as a young child of that age, and went to live with them in obscurity in Nazareth.
The actions of Jesus Christ are intended for us as examples and instructions, as much as His words. As He said, “I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you also should do” (John 13:15) The hidden life of Jesus is for us a perfect model of humility. He lived in poverty and lowliness: the Mother He chose was a poor woman; His foster-father was a carpenter; the town in which He spent the greatest part of His life was an obscure place despised by the Jews: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)
By His hidden life, Jesus Christ teaches us to learn holiness and wisdom before we presume to teach others. He teaches us, by living in obscurity, to fight against our vanity, which makes us desire to be doing only what seems great and important, which makes us desire to be praised and noticed. By His hidden life Our Lord teaches us to subdue our pride, to live day after day without impatience or complaint, unknown to the world, and even despised if that is the will of God for us; then we shall have true peace of heart. And so Jesus said, “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Matt. 11:29). For long years of obscurity in Nazareth, He was just “a carpenter’s son”.
The hidden life of Jesus Christ is for us a perfect model of obedience: “And He was subject to them.” The God of all created things, almighty and infinite, was subject to two poor and unknown mortals. He obeyed them in all things, promptly, constantly, cheerfully, and with great love.
Let us model our obedience on this perfect pattern. Let us obey our superiors as representatives of God, giving them due respect and prompt obedience. When our parents command us, and we go about doing what they want, but with murmuring and without spirit, is that the obedience that the Child Jesus gave in Nazareth? When we have to do some unpleasant or difficult task, let us imitate Jesus in His very words: “Yes, Father, for such was thy good pleasure” (Matt. 11:26).
In this way our obedience will be like that of Jesus, supernatural; we shall obey human beings for the love of God; we shall really be obeying God Himself, in the persons of those He has placed over us. By the example of His hidden life, our Lord set the principle for the religious life, particularly for that in contemplative orders.
Jesus “advanced in wisdom and grace before God and men.” Although He possessed all wisdom and grace from the first moment of His mortal life, He manifested them only gradually and in a way that was in keeping with His years.
We can obtain much merit before God without doing any striking actions, by merely being humble and obedient in the place of life in which it has pleased God to put us. If Christ the Son of God, God Himself, was content to be humble, poor, and unknown, to do common tasks day by day for the greater part of His earthly life, is there any reason why we should be ever trying to exalt ourselves, to attract admiration, ever to feed our vanity?