It’s axiomatic and we know how true it is that the family that prays together stays together. Being devout Jews, Mary and Joseph and later Jesus himself would have stopped three times each day to recite together Israel’s creed, the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord your God is one God; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6: 4-9). That Mary and Joseph offered two turtle doves rather than a lamb on the occasion of Jesus’ circumcision indicates that they were probably too poor to afford a lamb.

I often wonder what Jesus’ life was like during the 30 years he spent in Nazareth. As he grew up he must have run and danced and sang with the other young people of the village. Nazareth was a small place of a couple of hundred people. Some inhabitants lived in hillside caves while others lived in small primitive houses with dark walls of mud or stone. Roofs were often of dry branches and clay. In general they had only one room where the family lived and slept, including animals. Three or four houses often opened on to a patio where much domestic life took place and younger children played.

Jesus lived in one of these humble homes, and knew the smallest details of everyday life. He knew where it was best to place a candle to light the whole room. He may have seen his mother sweeping stony ground with a palm frond in search of a lost coin. He had seen how his mother and the neighbours would meet in the patio at dawn to knead a little yeast into the bread dough. He had watched them mending clothes, and noticed that a patch of new cloth could not be sewn on an old dress. He may have often asked his parents for bread or an egg, knowing that they would always give him what he needed.

In very rural Nazareth Jesus grew up surrounded by nature, his eyes open to the world around him. The imagery in the psalms, especially Psalm 104, must have been a delight for him in prayer. Jesus was not only open to nature. Later he would encourage people to see what was behind it. He saw with eyes of faith the flowers of the field and the birds in the air, but behind them he saw God’s loving care for all God’s creatures. The peasant people of the Galilee countryside were God-fearing and felt they were loved by their God. It was in this kind of environment that Jesus and his family lived their faith and trust in God.

Fr. QQ – 12/28/2023


John J. Pilch, THE CULTURAL WORLD OF JESUS, Vol 2   (1996)

Jose A Pagola, JESUS: An Historical Approximation   (2015)

John Barton, A HISTORY OF THE BIBLE   (2019)

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