Welcome to our virtual book club! We’re reading Fr. James Martin’s bestseller, Jesus: A Pilgrimage. Each week we will tackle a chapter and look forward to a lively discussion together.
I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but this week’s reflection is the one that almost didn’t get written.
In the past two weeks, multiple circumstances conspired against my “to do” list and left me in a “Why ME, Lord?!!” kind of mood. The circumstances had everything to do with taking care of my family. There were both planned and sudden needs. And even with the planned situations, there were changes, frustrations, last minute detours and lots and lots of messes.
Each day, as I stared in desperation at my growing “to do” list and saw the words “Write about the Jesus chapter…” scribbled and left undone (along with countless other professional commitments), my frustration level grew. I was busy, so busy that some days I didn’t even find time for a shower (I know, yuck!). And yet I had the sense that I was getting absolutely nothing accomplished.
How could I be trying so hard and getting absolutely nothing done?
Finally, yesterday, I was back home after logging miles and miles of both air travel and driving. My family tasks had settled a bit. With the roar of the washer and dryer in the background I picked up my big green Jesus book and settled in my favorite reading spot. I’ve been listening to the book on Audible, but to write a proper reflection I felt the need to highlight, to scribble margin notes, and to journal my thoughts as I read. Reading the words on the page reminded me of the many times I’d spent with Father James Martin in the past few weeks — listening to this book while driving to a speaking engagement, while working in my mother’s garden, while sitting next to a loved one’s hospital bed as she slept… I had been listening in the context of my real, messy, unorganized life with Jesus as a companion, and Fr. Jim too!
Digging in to Nazareth in Chapter Four again yesterday in that quiet space of time reminded me not of the days I had spent a few years ago while traveling in the Holy Land. Surprisingly, reading these pages about the “Hidden Life” of Christ took me mentally not to the pew where I’d worshipped in the beautiful Basilica of the Annunciation nor to the ruins of the Church of St. Joseph. As much as I had loved seeing those places in person on my own Israel pilgrimage, Chapter Four’s emphasis on Jesus’ knowledge of the marginalized, on his understanding of human life or family life, or on his understanding of work as a “tekton” unlocked many more mysteries of this Son of God I love so dearly.
Who among us hasn’t wished for a time machine to venture back to a tiny home in Nazareth to watch Mary fix dinner for Jesus and Jospeh? Who hasn’t wondered what tools lined the walls of the carpentry shop or what Mary wore when she was laundering her blue robe (and was it really blue?) and Joseph and Jesus’s tunics? This remarkable chapter on the Hidden Life filled in many of those mental blanks for me.
But in the end, if my purpose in reading Fr. Jim’s book is to meet Jesus, to know him better in the context of both history and my own life, then the true genius of Chapter Four for me was found not in the remarkable historical details that unveiled those hidden years, but rather in the final few lines of the chapter:
Jesus shows us the inestimable value of ordinary time. As the Jesuit theologian John Haughey comments, during Jesus’s time in Nazareth God fashioned him into “the instrument God needed for the salvation of the world.” In Nazareth, Jesus speaks to the meaning and worth of our ordinary lives.
The meaning and worth of our ordinary lives…
In the messiness of “real life”, in the hard work, the moments of patient companionship, and in the setting aside of my professional “to do” list in favor of the duties of Lisa Hendey’s own “hidden life”, Jesus awaits me. In the tasks and thankless work of my ordinary life, the moments know one sees or recognizes, the greatest opportunities for true grace quietly beckon me. It’s not that I’m “getting nothing done”, but rather that I haven’t been properly valuing the work that God has been placing in my path. Perhaps the most complete fulfillments of meaning and worth of my own ordinary life are the ones that lead me closer to both God, to my loved ones, and to those most greatly in need of whatever strength that God has placed within me.
Whether I fully know or understand every detail of his life, death and resurrection, Jesus is at my side — as role model, mentor, friend and savior. My ordinary life and the countless tiny and insignificant ways I find to better love Jesus by more fully loving and caring for those around me are a true blessing.
Jesus’ Hidden Life mattered. It prepared him for the path God had planned for him.
My hidden life matters, and yours does too.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- Early in Chapter Four Fr. Martin mentions that he wonders what Jesus’s actual voice sounds like. Do you ever do this in your personal prayer time? How do you listen for Jesus’s voice in your personal meditation?
- Charles de Foucauld hoped to found a religious order that lived out his devotion to the spirituality of the “Hidden Life”. In what ways do you see your life’s work — the “ordinary” tasks that fill your days — as a means of spreading the gospel in everyday circumstances?
- How does pondering the value of Jesus’ ordinary life help you to measure more fully the potential sanctity of your own ordinary life?
Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.
Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 5: Jordan. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Jesus Book Club page.
Copyright 2014 Lisa Hendey