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Day 15: Sunday of the 3rd Week of Ordinary Time
What was Jesus’ life like as a teenager?
Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ first Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem concludes with “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 advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (Luke 2:51-52)
They returned to Nazareth. There, Jesus “advanced [in] wisdom” as a teenager. Our third week of Nazareth will focus on Jesus as a teenager as we unpack Luke 2:52, “And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”
Today we ask: “What was Jesus’ life like as a teenager?”
Luke tells us that Jesus advanced in “age”. However, more importantly, Jesus “advanced” in “wisdom.” Let’s first consider Jesus “advancing”. If Jesus is the Son of God, didn’t he know it all already? The Catechism teaches that, while perfectly divine, Jesus was “endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, ‘increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man’, and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience.” (22)
Jesus learned. He was taught. He grew. But, he grew in wisdom. What is wisdom? Pope Benedict XVI writes: “We cannot rely solely on the news if we want to understand the world and life. We must be able to remain in silence, in meditation, in calm and prolonged reflection; we must know how to stop and think. In this way, our mind can find healing from the inevitable wounds of daily life, can go deeper into the events that occur in our lives and in the world, and come to the knowledge that allows us to evaluate things with new eyes.” (23) He continues by describing wisdom: “Whoever thinks with God thinks well, and whoever speaks to God speaks well. They have valid criteria to judge all the things of the world. They become prudent, wise, and at the same time good; they also become strong and courageous with the strength of God, who resists evil and fosters good in the world.” (24)
Wisdom is not the same as information. Wisdom is not the same as knowledge. Wisdom isn’t as much concerned with facts as it is with truth. Wisdom comes from the source of Truth: God. Much of Jesus’ teenage years were filled with learning about life; about the mind of the Father; about wisdom.
In today’s “information age” we find ourselves inundated with information. However, never before has our culture needed wisdom more than it does information. The key is the source. Unfortunately, many are undiscerning when it comes to what they believe. For example, many are quick to believe something just because it is written. They assume that because it is published it must be true. Or, many are quick to believe something just because it is on television or the internet. We far too often assume that because it is “out there” it must be true. However, what’s the source? Far too many of us are conforming instead of being formed. Wisdom and truth are one. God and truth are one. Therefore, wisdom and God are one. There is no contradiction within truth, nor can truth contradict what God has revealed about Himself.
What really influences your mind, your thinking, or your opinions? Who’s conforming to who? Is God and his truth really forming your opinions in life, what you believe to be true? Or, is the world (the internet, television, media, Western post-modern philosophy) forming your mind? What’s the source of your beliefs about life? Are you shaped by information, knowledge, or wisdom?
FOR YOUR PRAYER
Imagine Jesus as a teenager learning more and more about the mind of the Father by learning about the Old Testament’s revelation of the Father. Imagine Jesus learning to love the great Old Testament books, such as Wisdom and Proverbs. Read Wisdom, chapter 1. Read it a few times. Pay attention to what words or phrases “tug” at your heart. Pay attention to all of your thoughts, feelings, and desires as you slowly read the text. Ask yourself, are you more influenced by God or the world?
Now, prayerfully imagine the “hidden scenes” of Nazareth: Joseph teaching Jesus the Old Testament; Joseph teaching Jesus about the story of the Chosen People; Mary teaching Jesus about his own history; Mary teaching Jesus about prayer. Be there. Be with them. As you are with them, they turn to you. They ask you: “What’s on your heart today?” What do you want to tell them? Listen to what they say in reply.
Today’s Prayer: “Jesus, I desire to know you in a deeply personal way. Help me to grow in my relationship with you by desiring wisdom more than I desire information.”
(22) Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 472
(23) Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Vespers, December 31, 2012
(24) Pope Benedict XVI, Solemnity of the Assumption, August 15, 2005
Day 16: Monday of the 3rd Week of Ordinary Time
As a father, what did Joseph teach Jesus when Jesus was a teenager?
Our third week of Nazareth focuses on Jesus as a teenager as we unpack Luke 2:52, “And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” Today we ask: “As a father, what did Joseph teach Jesus when Jesus was a teenager?”
On day 10 we were reminded that a father has a God-given role in a person’s life. His role is intentional and critical. Pope John Paul II reminded us: “In this family, Joseph is the father: his fatherhood is not one that derives from begetting offspring; but neither is it an ‘apparent’ or merely ‘substitute’ fatherhood. Rather, it is one that fully shares in authentic human fatherhood and the mission of a father in the family.” (25) Blessed John Paul II continues: “The growth of Jesus ‘in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man’ (Luke 2:52) took place within the Holy Family under the eyes of Joseph, who had the important task of ‘raising’ Jesus, that is, feeding, clothing and educating him in the Law and in a trade, in keeping with the duties of a father.” (26)
What are the “duties of a father” that Pope John Paul II speaks of? Certainly Joseph would have provided the Holy Family with “feeding [and] clothing”. However, St. Joseph was charged with “educating him in the Law” and teaching Jesus “a trade”. Essentially St. Joseph mentored Jesus when Jesus was a teenager.
During his teenage years, a son transitions from being a boy to being a man. To become a man, a boy must learn how to “put aside childish things” (1st Corinthians 13:11). A boy must lay aside his vices and choose to grow in virtue; he must choose to leave the self-centered world of childhood and choose to start living for others as men do; he must learn how to integrate his sexuality and all that puberty brings; he must learn how to defend himself, provide, and discern the good. Thus, a father’s role is very different during the teenage life of a boy as it is in the teenage life of a girl. Under God’s design, a father is the guide during these essential years for a son. A father serves as a seasoned source of wisdom, mirroring for the boy that which he strives for and mentoring the boy as he grows in these essential qualities.
Jesus didn’t have to figure it out on his own. He saw these things in Joseph. Joseph imaged true manhood for the teenage Jesus. If you want to know what St. Joseph was like, look at Jesus as a man. There’s a lot of St. Joseph in Jesus.
If a son doesn’t have a father to show him the way then a boy will either look elsewhere or try to figure it out himself. If he looks elsewhere he may find a father figure who can do what his father was supposed to do. However, far too often these examples are lacking. Thus, most fatherless sons are raised more by the culture than they are by God. Further still, if boys try to figure it out on their own, there’s no guarantee that their own determinations will bear the real fruit of authentic manhood. Teenage boys are supposed to have an image to look to. And, of course, teenage girls are supposed to have an image to look to.
Who taught you how to be a man or a woman? Did the right someone really mentor you? Was there someone to look to? How much did you learn from the culture; how much did you try to figure out on your own? The good news is 2nd Corinthians 6:18 reminds us: “I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” God can still father you if you allow him. St. Joseph can still teach you if you allow him. Mary can still teach you if you allow her. Spend some time with Joseph and Mary and let them be an image for you.
FOR YOUR PRAYER
Jesus would have grown to be very, very familiar with the rich tradition of the Old Testament. Imagine Jesus looking at St. Joseph and seeing in St. Joseph Exodus 20:12, Proverbs 23:22, and Psalm 1:2-3. Imagine St. Joseph looking at Jesus and seeing in JesusPsalms 127:3-5, Proverbs 22:6, and Proverbs 23:24. Now, once again today read Psalm 37:1-7. Read it a few times. Pay attention to what words or phrases “tug” at your heart. Pay attention to all of your thoughts, feelings, and desires as you slowly read the text. Ask yourself, what do you really desire?
Now, prayerfully imagine the “hidden scenes” of Nazareth: Joseph teaching Jesus, “educating him in the Law” as Pope John Paul II says; Joseph teaching Jesus, “a trade” as Pope John Paul II says. Imagine St. Joseph mentoring Jesus how to be man. Be there. Be with them. As you are with them, they turn to you. They ask you: ”What’s on your heart today?” What do you want to tell them? Listen to what they say in reply.
Today’s Prayer: “Jesus, I desire to know you in a deeply personal way. Help me to grow in my relationship with you by desiring to be a man like St. Joseph or a woman like the Blessed Mother.”
(25) Blessed John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, no. 21
(26) Ibid., no. 16