12.31.17: Filling in the gaps
Bulletin column from St. Mary Catholic Church, in Crown Point, Ind.
My dear friends in Christ,
There are so many sites in the Holy Land where you can see Scripture come to life, and no doubt if you know someone who’s been on pilgrimage in the land where Jesus walked, they have their favorite locale, where they profoundly felt the presence of God or understood something in Scripture in a way they never imagined.
Maybe it was the mystery of the Nativity in Bethlehem or looking in to the night’s starry sky in the Shepherd’s Field. Maybe it was sitting along the Sea of Galilee, thinking about how Jesus walked on water and performed so many miracles. Maybe it was in Jerusalem, where Christ walked the road to Calvary.
Then, there’s Nazareth. On the surface, it’s a city like any other. There’s a modern downtown with coffee shops, department stores, chain restaurants and plenty of traffic. But there’s something special about Nazareth, even with its modern flare, because that’s where Jesus spent most of his life. That’s where he grew up as the son of Mary and the carpenter Joseph. The thing is, there’s not much in Scripture about Jesus’ life in Nazareth. But that’s what makes Nazareth special. We have to use our imagination to picture Jesus’ life in Nazareth. In Nazareth, we’re left to fill the gaps.
From what we know, Nazareth was a fairly small town. There might have been 400 or 500 people there. If you need an example of what that might look like, think about a full 9 a.m. Mass here at St. Mary’s. With that many people in town, there are good odds that everybody knew each other – and everybody knew each other’s business.
If there was tension at home, the neighbors knew. If Jesus – who we have to remember was fully God and fully man – was going though normal teenage life, it happened in Nazareth. When Jesus and Mary said their final farewell to Joseph, it happened in Nazareth. When Jesus became the ‘Man of the House,’ it was a house in Nazareth. Spend some time just imagining these scenarios. See where your heart takes you.
That’s the beauty of the mystery that is Jesus’ life in Nazareth. It sparks the imagination. When we begin thinking about Jesus’ life, we likely use our own experiences of childhood and adolescence and early adulthood. In that, we can connect with our Lord. We can imagine him sharing our struggles growing up. Suddenly, a God who can seem so distant, becomes so real, so close to us, and we to Him.