2 SAMUEL 24:2,9-17; MARK 6:1-6

The Gospel we have just heard provides us with some remarkable insights into the hidden life Jesus lived in the years that made up the largest portion of our Lord's life on earth.  When he teaches in the local synagogue his astonishes his fellow towns people.  They had no reason to suspect he was so learned and wise in his teaching.  "Where did all this come from?" they asked.  Rather than feeling pride that one of their own displayed such remarkable wisdom, Mark informs us, they were resentful.  Mark tell us nothing about the hidden years, nor does Matthew.  Except for a single episode when the Holy family went up to Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve years of age, we are told nothing of the thirty years he passed in the provincial town of Nazareth.  In Luke's account also Jesus' public life begins rather abruptly and unexpectedly for his neighbors, on a Sabbath day in the local synagogue.  Saint Luke, like Mark, provides us with the details of the way he entered upon his public life.  He took the critical step in the local synagogue.   After his reading of the passage from Isaiah that states "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to anoint me.   He has sent me to declare good news to the poor.  " He then added the words that initiated his public ministry and set him on the path that was to end only with his death.   Luke put it this way: "He began to say to them that today this Scripture is fulfilled in your ears."

His neighbors' reaction to this declaration and their comments reveal that he and his family blended in with the local people and their ways.   Nothing distinguished him in their experience from the unsophisticated neighbors among whom he lived and worked as a carpenter, the trade he learned from Joseph.   "Surely, this is Joseph's son," they said among themselves.   His claim to be the fulfillment of ancient prophecy seemed outrageous.   As a result, Luke observes that Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.

That the neighbors of Our Lord failed to recognize in him and in his family anything remarkable tells us much about the real humility of spirit that is so striking a feature of Jesus' life.   Our Lord lived among people in so ordinary and inconspicuous a manner of life that he was considered quite unremarkable as a person.   The same modest humility characterized his mother and Joseph.   So modestly and so humbly did he conduct himself in his daily life as a child, youth and mature man that when he made his claim to be sent from God as a prophet his neighbors were surprised at first, and later, as we have just heard, even scandalized by his pretensions.

Our monastic life has from early times taken as a model this deliberate choice of hidden, inconspicuous, unremarkable way of living together and in society.   Saint Matthew has written that on one occasion our Lord expressly offered himself as a model for his followers.   What he put forward was not his heroic criticism of the powerful but his modest lowliness of spirit.   "Learn from me," he taught, "for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  " That too requires courage, and it can be gained not only by the strong, but by all of us who truly seek union with God.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger