Over the centuries, theologians and scholars have attempted again and again to peer into the life of the Holy Family during the private 30 years of Jesus’s life in Nazareth. Very little is known about this time period, but it was undoubtedly formative to the final three years of Christ’s time on earth and yet the exact events remain a mystery to this day.
In this month’s installment of 19 on the 19th, a series that brings you 19-minute reflections on St. Joseph each month, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ explores the hidden life of the Holy Family before Jesus’ public ministry and the integral role St. Joseph played in it.
Fr. Matthew began by acknowledging the many questions that surrounded Joseph’s life and he said that while many have speculated, we just don’t have the exact answers. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth contemplating. St. Joseph wasn’t sitting around waiting for something important to happen. “Far from it,” said Fr. Matthew. “He was using that time himself in order to sanctify the hidden, silent moments of human life…The hidden life of Jesus, and therefore the hidden life of Joseph and Mary, is itself part of redemption.”
The fact that these silent, unknown, mysterious years are still part of God’s plan of salvation should stand out to us. We can find opportunities to sanctify anything and everything in our lives, whether it be at our job, in school, in sports, or working silently by ourselves.
“Part of the beauty of the life of the Holy Family is that it’s shrouded in hiddenness and mystery and it’s secret, but not in the sense that it’s special information reserved, and therefore privileged, only for them, but rather that you and I learn something very valuable through the witness of the Holy Family during these especially hidden moments,” said Fr. Matthew. The valuable lesson that he is pointing out is the idea that the things we do away from the world that may never be seen by anybody are crucial to our journey to heaven. The private actions we carry out like cleaning up after ourselves, making our bed, or folding our laundry, contribute to our personal salvation the same way our public actions and words do. It is only a matter of sanctification, following in the footsteps of St. Joseph and Mary.
In this modern age where everybody needs constant validation of their actions, we should take a step back and recognize that we do not need approval from the world. The recognition and evaluation by God is what determines our value and our attainment of eternal happiness. Fr. Matthew referenced a passage from the gospel, “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:17-18) Those who have been recognized on earth have already received their reward.
We see it again when Jesus tells us to pray in the privacy of our rooms and when we give alms, do not let one hand know what the other hand is doing. And where did he get this example? “In other words, Jesus learned these particular values, no doubt, from Joseph and Mary, in His humanity anyway.” Our recognition, awards, and validation on earth will not last but for a minute in the grand scheme of things. In the end, it will be God who lifts us up and gives us eternal salvation.
Learn more about St. Joseph by listening to or reading the full 19 on the 19th talks below:
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