Jesus, the carpenter
People’s education is like those meals prepared at low, very low heat: for long hours not much change is perceived, but the meal takes a wonderful flavor thanks to this slowness and of course, also to the good ingredients a wise cook has managed to choose.
Behind our own personal story is the mystery of people’s growth and also the education within a promising environment such as a good family, a seminary or a university. But, above all, behind everyone story, is the mystery of every person’s freedom to take advantage of what life offers to him or her to grow, improve and give their all.
I say all this because, in Nazareth, the town where Jesus lived, surely everyone knew each other. For that reason, everybody knew him. But did they actually know him? Did they realize how Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man”? as the Gospel according to Luke says. Of course, they did not know Jesus as we do: for us, Jesus is the Saviour, the Son of God and son of the Virgin. For his neighbours, Jesus was the “carpenter”, the son of Mary and surely for them, she was simply another neighbour. And they also knew all their relatives, whom we barely know.
This Sunday’s Gospel speaks about two looks. For Jesus’ neighbours, his life is like any other. He was just another neighbour; that is why when they acknowledge that Jesus works miracles and listen to his teaching full of wisdom, they cannot believe it. Then they were shocked, and they are unable to believe in Him. Jesus’ neighbours look at him in a way that does not allow them to recognize that someone who is been such a simple neighbour up to that moment, is someone with God’s wisdom and power. They were not able to perceive what was building inside such a common neighbour’s heart. They were not able to see how a man who was going to change the world was “being cooked”. The Holy Spirit was acting in Jesus together with his great collaborators: Mary, his mother and St. Joseph.
But there is a second point of view: it is God’s look. Jesus, the Son of God, honoured the plan that God Father had thought for Him and then, “who, though he was in the form of God, (Jesus) did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself”, as St. Paul says.
Jesus’ neighbours saw him as another man, as ordinary as themselves. God Father saw him making his will in such an ordinary life as that of others. It is amazing that Jesus wanted and accepted to live for thirty years such a non-special life, so similar to our life; a simple life such as that of his neighbours: a life of family and work; nothing else. Thirty years like that.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus reflects on this with these lovely words: “Jesus is a hidden treasure, an inestimable good which few souls can find, for it is hidden, and the world loves what sparkles. He does not will that we love Him for His gifts; He Himself must be our reward. We must be like Jesus, Jesus whose face was hidden.”
Our Christian life is also something basically hidden. In so many ways our life is like all the others’. And, however, at the same time, it is a life like Jesus’, that of a neighbour, but it encloses a hidden treasure.
Our everyday life is not extraordinary. It is so ordinary: full of struggles and efforts in which so many times we feel so weak. But in that ordinary life, as ordinary as Jesus’ life in Nazareth, in that very weak life, that is where God’s strength is shown. In that life, “hidden with Christ in God”, God’s grace is all we need, for his power is made perfect in our weakness.