From the hermitage
By sister alies therese
It is Catholic Schools Week and where do we find ourselves and Jesus? He was 12, just a tween on the verge of teenager-ness. We are almost a month in from the coming of Jesus at the nativity, celebrating the shepherds, Wise Men and Jesus the refugee into Egypt. We have seen Anna and Simeon with Jesus for the first time in the Temple where He is “recognized as the long-expected Messiah, the light of the nations, and the glory of Israel, but also a sign that is spoken against. The sword of sorrow promised to Mary announces Christ’s perfect and unique oblation on the Cross that will impart the salvation God had prepared in the presence of all peoples.” (530) We have also celebrated His return to Nazareth, not Bethlehem, and the Holy Family’s life together. Curiously, however, we have no more information until this story breaks into the ‘hidden life.’
The Catholic Catechism lets us know that He, like other boys His age, would have been spending a “daily life without evident greatness, a life of manual labor. His religious life was that of an obedient Jew to the law of God, a life in the community … it is revealed to us that Jesus was obedient to His parents and that He increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and the human community.” (531)
Remembering age 12, in the seventh grade, I too was without evident greatness, but avoided manual labor and was not that obedient to my parents! Oops. It was the year I was preparing to be confirmed, tackling many new subjects at middle school and was pretty good at sports. I also began to feel a call to religious life. I attended CCD at the local Catholic school where the Sisters taught us. Being a high introvert, however, I took a page from Mary’s book and ‘pondered these things in my heart.’
Did Jesus really make little clay birds fly for His friends in the village? This and other stories floated around trying to disavow the ‘humanness’ of Jesus. Or should I say, tried to take away any of the things passed down by Mary’s side of the family? For Jesus to show how He is ultimately ‘Savior,” He needs all that was human as well as God. Personally, I vote no on the clay birds flying.
Some 12-year old’s are very bright and perceptive. Twelve is not a child. In Jewish tradition, it’s time for bar or bat mitzvah, admitting the young person into the adult community. Today with so much screen time, a 12-year-old is either much brighter and smarter than we were, or very much more sluggish. I’ve met both. But are they ‘wise?’ What transpires in each of our hidden lives?
Jesus is supposed to be returning home after the Feast of Passover in Jerusalem. Look at Luke 2:41 and read the whole story. Since Jesus was considered almost an adult, He probably didn’t spend a lot of time with His parents during the feast. Some NIV notes indicated that 12-year old’s could be in a caravan with their parents or as with Jesus, thought to be in the other caravan with the men. But, when the caravan did leave Jerusalem, He stayed behind because he had been talking and listening to the teachers and they were listening to Him. During Passover, the greatest Rabbis were there, and they assembled people and had master classes of sorts and long discussions. The coming of the Messiah was a big topic and perhaps this interested Jesus. The notes from the NIV conclude, it was not Jesus’ youth that impressed them, “but His wisdom.”
St. Pope Paul VI, spoke at Nazareth in 1964, on the Feast of the Holy Family: “The home at Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus — the school of the Gospel. First a lesson of silence… A lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love … A lesson of work. Nazareth, home of the ‘Carpenter’s Son,’ I would understand the redeeming law of human work … I want to greet all the workers of the world, holding up to them their great pattern, their brother who is God.” (533)
So, students who are you learning from? Are you paying attention to those who can assist and help you move forward into your vocation as these Rabbis helped the young man Jesus that you will be of service? Don’t be afraid to be serious about your search – listen and learn. And, families, often very broken and in pain, remember that love is the bottom line in the Holy Family or in your ‘Holy’ family. Brokenness lets the light through and I dare say often brings wisdom.
(Sister alies therese is a vowed Catholic solitary who lives an eremitical life. Her days are formed around prayer, art and writing. She is author of six books of spiritual fiction and is a weekly columnist. She lives and writes in Mississippi.)