I’ve begun reading a collection of St. Josemaria Escriva’s homilies entitled Christ Is Passing By. While I’ve only read a handful, I’ve already been given much to consider and it’s making my ‘head hurt.’ Or maybe it’s my heart.
I have written on a few occasions about Jesus’ obedience to His Father’s will. And I guess I always placed emphasis in my own mind on Jesus’ allowing Himself to be crucified for us all. That is challenging enough, of course. But Josemaria talks about the “hidden” years of Jesus’ life on earth, the 30 years before He begins His public ministry. He focuses on the importance of that period of time when Jesus toiled in the everyday. He learned a trade, made a living, and lived among peers, or as it is translated in this book, “side by side with ordinary men.” And THAT is obedience, too. Just being human was a huge sacrifice for Jesus, who is the second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Just being an ordinary citizen of the world was an act of humility for Jesus. And it is through this obedience of the Son of God, in all His years on earth, even those hidden years that included learning a trade and working to earn a living, that all our work is sanctified. Whatever we do is, or can be, a holy act. When done with intention and thought, when done well, to the best of our God-given abilities, we are offering a prayer to God and it is an act of worship as sure as our prayer during Mass or our most eloquent personal words of praise.
This idea of Jesus joining us in humble service, working in the same small village as the creatures God created, well, that gives a new meaning to the word humility for me. It wasn’t a day or 3 days of obedience; it was Christ’s entire life.
‘Born in a stable’ has been repeated so much and we’ve heard the story of the Nativity countless times in part or in its entirety that we fail to see how incredible it really is for the King of the Universe to not only be born the way everyone else is carried to gestation and born of a woman, but He is then made to come into the world with farm animals. It’s really the lowest of the low and the dirtiest and smelliest, too.
No human deserves a birth like that. And yet, the Son of God, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings is born there, in such a way. I suppose I’m not saying anything new. And yet, I think I’ve just been given a moment of clarity that I’ve never had before. The mundane words I’ve read or heard a thousand times before now have a much more profound meaning for me.
So I thank God for that. And the point of Josemaria’s observations about Jesus’ obedience is to remind us that we are invited by Jesus to follow His way. And we may, indeed most of us will, toil in that relative anonymity our whole lives. But we can rejoice in that we’ve done what Jesus asked us to do. We have been obedient, too. We’ve followed His invitation, His example, and we do it joyfully, most of the time. If we’re not, we need to really think about how much He loves us to become one of us and experience our lives.
And then out of love for each one of us Jesus does suffer and die. He didn’t have to, but once He accepted the will of the Father, He could not avoid that experience. Nor would He avoid, though, the resurrection and ascension into Heaven! There’s our happy ending. There’s the rest of what we get to do because of Christ’s humility and His obedience. If we continue to follow in humble service and obedience, we get the resurrection and the ascension one glorious day, too.
It all makes sense and it should be cause for rejoicing. That joy we radiate can arouse curiosity in those who don’t know of the love that God has for us. That love is endless and sacrificial – first God gives us His Son, who He knows He will ultimately have to give up, and then this Son deigns to be born in a stable, live for 3 decades as an unnoticed, ordinary person, get falsely accused, falsely arrested, beaten, humiliated, made to suffer horribly, and finally killed. It’s all sacrifice! So, giving up that piece of candy or that meal, missing out on what we think would be a great job opportunity or not getting the certain house we wanted to buy, it all pales somewhat in comparison to what Jesus did for us. From start to finish. Although the ‘finish’ was never really the end, thank God.
Jesus redeemed us. And every day of His life from conception to ascension was all arranged so we could be. After this insight God gave me on a plane ride from Chicago to Washington, D.C. I think I need to be thankful for every little thing I’ve been given. Not just the big stuff, like family and health, but every little thing. And I will toil in anonymity and I will do whatever task I’m given to do in the best way I know how with all my strength and in praise and thanksgiving for my ‘ordinary’ life. It’s enough. It’s always been enough. And it is holy.