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Weekend Reflections for 12/29/17

Jesus Ordinary Life

In the last sentence of today's gospel, 17 words in all, we have an incredibly vague synopsis of what we know about Jesus life after his birth:  he lives with his family in Nazareth where he grew and increased in grace, wisdom, and knowledge. 

But it was growing up and living in Nazareth that He learned what human living, our life, was all about.  He shared in the joys, sorrows, travails and triumph of family life and love in a small, remote village.  He came to know his people, their traditions their heritage, their customs, their hopes and expectations, their dreams of a messiah.  He learned of the suffering and oppression of his people, their hatred of the Romans; their prejudice against foreigners, or non-Jews, especially the Samaritans.  And we should remember that it was a genuine family life in which Jesus grew up with brothers and sisters. Both the Gospels of Mark and Matthew indicate this and even give us his brothers' names: James, Joses (or Joseph), Jude and Simon. The sisters go unnamed.  

He learned almost all of this from Mary and Joseph, and also his relatives and friends and perhaps a local rabbi or priest. From Joseph he acquired a trade and worked at it quietly and unobtrusively most of his teenage and adult life. It seems that he suffered the loss and sorrow of Joseph's death, then he along with his brothers and sisters and Mary they took care of each other.

So this is the manner in which God brings Christ to the work of the Kingdom, living, learning and working with his family and villagers in Nazareth.  It is through his living and learning here that he comes to know of our joys and celebrations but also our human suffering and injustices, the strengths and weaknesses of his Jewish political and religious leaders.

I have had the privilege of talking with many people about their faith journey.  Some at times protest that they are just too ordinary to be holy.  They see the journey of their life far from the extraordinary life of Jesus. And so they sadly speak of what they called their "just" lives.  I'm just a mom.  I'm just an aunt. I'm just a business person. I am just a grandparent.  But for most of his life Jesus was "just" a carpenter in a little backwater town of Nazareth.  One scripture scholar describes his life up to now as "insufferably ordinary."

That is why his townspeople, family and friends were so shocked when he began his public ministry. And so they exclaimed, "Is this not the son of the carpenter?"

But in living his life in this manner Jesus reveals to us the inestimable value of ordinary time. During his time in Nazareth God fashioned him into "the instrument needed for the salvation of the world." In Nazareth Jesus speaks to the meaning and worth of our ordinary lives.

May we fully appreciate the importance and value of the ordinary lives God has given us.

-Fr. Jim Blumeyer, S.J.