The Holy Family is depicted here in St. Luke’s Gospel as fulfilling a normal religious obligation in bringing Jesus to Jerusalem for the Jewish ceremony of purification (“Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to God”). There they meet Simeon and Anna, faithful and wise persons who had awaited the coming of the Messiah remaining steady and strong in their faith.
Completing the prescribed purification, Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus return to Galilee, their hometown, and Luke tells us succinctly, “the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom and the favor of God was upon him.” There is so much personal history of Jesus and the Holy Family contained in these phrases but they really don’t shed much direct light on Jesus as he lived the great majority of his life in Nazareth.
We refer to that “growing” and “becoming strong”, being filled with “wisdom” and receiving the “favor of God” as the hidden life of Jesus. We remember that the public life of Jesus, the part that we are so familiar with because of the Gospels, covered a relatively small part of his whole life. So we are intrigued: what went on during those nearly 30 years Jesus spent with Joseph and Mary? We can only imagine the contours of that life as Jesus grew among his immediate family, the townspeople he knew, the skills that were developed in him as he learned Joseph’s trade, and the many other tasks of growing up into his identity as a human person.
What we do know about those “hidden” years is what St. Luke tells us in the gospel passage for today. But what do those words/reality mean for us in our life-circumstances today? If we are to “imitate” Jesus in our lives we are invited to the same kind of growth that He experienced, and that, like Him, we are invited to focus on the source of that growth because indeed the “favor of God” is for us as much as it was for Jesus.
Can I bask in that “favor?” Can I trust that because of who God is that the favor is mine as well as Jesus’? That the often repeated phrase that we speak (God loves you) is a reality – a promise from God? My call then is to realize that promise in my own life with its many and varied circumstances. Each of us is called to grow and become strong and be filled with wisdom BECAUSE the favor of God rests upon us as it rested on Jesus. What a spectacular prospect, and what a magnificent reality rooted squarely in “God loves me!”
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