Context: It is unclear just how long the Holy Family had to remain in exile in Egypt so as to keep Jesus safe from Herod. But when Herod died, and while Jesus was still a child, they returned to Israel, and Jesus’ family life continued. Joseph was once again warned in a dream about the new king, so they went north to Nazareth to live. Nazareth, thus, became the town of the younger years and the “hidden life” of the Savior of the World.
Though the details of the life of the Holy Family in Nazareth is not recorded for us to read, we can ponder their life together nonetheless. They clearly would have lived a very ordinary life together, but in an extraordinary way. The hearts of Jesus and Mary were filled with perfect virtue, and Saint Joseph was spoken of as a “just man.” As Joseph provided for his family, Mary would have raised Jesus and cared for the home. Jesus would have lived the life of a child in an awe-inspiring way. Just as parents will watch their children grow and change through life as they mature, so Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40, RSV-CE). As Mary and Joseph watched Him grow, they would have shared countless tender moments, moments of hard work, moments of fun and recreation, meals, chores, as well as every other moment that is a part of human life. This hidden life of the Holy Family was a “moment” when God chose to sanctify and elevate family life by living this ordinary life Himself.
The one glimpse we have of their hidden life together took place when Jesus was twelve. Following the Jewish custom, the family went south to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. This is simply what families did together. But when it was time to return, Jesus remained behind without his parents knowing. This was certainly not an act of disobedience; rather, it was an act of obedience by Jesus to the will of the Father in Heaven. Jesus was in the Temple. He was at home in the Temple, in His Father’s house. And He did what came natural to Him: He taught. He taught with great wisdom and understanding. He amazed those who listened, including the elders.
When Mary and Joseph found Him after three days of searching, Jesus appeared surprised that they did not know that He had to be in His Father’s house. But “he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:51–52, RSV-CE). Mother Mary did not fully understand, but she believed in deep faith, and she pondered the life of her divine Son. His presence to her was a source of daily contemplation and adoration. By loving her Son, she was loving her God.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:19–23; Luke 2:39–52
Reflection: Imagine life in Nazareth. Think about the ordinary and extraordinary moments they shared together as a family. (Silent Reflection)
What would it have been like to have been their neighbors? How was Jesus different from all the other boys His age? How were Mary and Joseph different? Try to imagine the profound presence of virtue in their home. (Silent Reflection)
Consider also the experience of Jesus at age twelve in Jerusalem. Listen, first, to the words of our Blessed Mother, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” Imagine her heart and her desire to understand. (Silent Reflection)
Listen to and ponder also the words of Jesus, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” This response from Jesus highlights the call given to each of us to completely devote our lives to the service of the Father’s will. Ponder Jesus and His unwavering dedication to His Father in Heaven and the fulfillment of His will. (Silent Reflection)
Jesus returned to Nazareth with them, but Mary pondered these things in her heart. Ponder her pondering heart. (Silent Reflection)
- Birth of the Savior of the World
- Humble Shepherds
- Presentation in the Temple
- Flight into Egypt, Massacre of Holy Innocents
- Hidden Life, Finding in the Temple