Recently, my family visited some friends and relatives and their home. It was a very friendly household. We spent much of the time speaking about their home renovations. Painting on all the walls. Installing a new kitchen. A new bathroom. A large TV. Inside of me there was a temptation saying, “I want this too”. A perfect home with nothing out of place.
What stands in contrast to this vision is Jesus’ vision of the first Beatitude or his commandment “Blessed are the poor” (Luke 6:20), rather than, “Blessed are the Perfect” or “Blessed are the Rich”.
As Marists and as Christians we are called to follow the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in our own life choices. Our homes. Our lifestyles. Not for poverty for poverty's sake, but of poverty and simplicity for God’s sake and in the way of Nazareth Mary and Joseph’s home.Of letting go of the things which build bigger and bigger homes and the things that build bigger and bigger businesses so that we might be available for God and the people who form our lives. In effect to convert our homes into the home of Nazareth for today. We are called on an ongoing conversion, a metanoia, a change of mind, but in our own homes to. Especially in a world that places emphasis on do-it-yourself renovations.
Mary, Jesus and Joseph’s home in Nazareth existed in a different time (2000 years ago) and a different culture (first century Jewish Palestine under Roman oppression). But there are themes and values we can draw upon from their home to seek Nazareth for us today in the Spirit of Mary, Jesus and Joseph.
Here are seven steps you might choose to take…
1. We cannot do this alone. Originally this was Mary and Joseph’s home, but ultimately, this was God’s dream. We must build a home for prayer. For Jews in the first century they would pray at least 3 times a day. For the early Christians they would continue in this tradition. To talk to God. For Marists, this cannot simply be by reading a how to guide, or reading a computer screen of 10 tips. We must seek God out in our lives. Where is God hiding? Even in places we do not expect. To get a taste for God. In our own wildernesses. In the hardest moments of our life. In our hearts.
2. Blessed are the poor. Jesus is born into a carpenter’s family. This is a well off, middle class or even an upper-class trade in first century Palestine. Why is it that Jesus is so generous by the time he is 30 years old? It is not simply an instinctive or internal motivation. He would have learnt from those around him. Joseph would have shown Jesus his trade, but also the obligation as a good Jew to care for the poor. Who are the poor in our own lives today? Not just the financially poor…. The outcasts…. Those on the edge of society….. We must begin to make choices that care for the poor in radical ways, but most in simplicity. In just stepping into the spaces where the poor live. Especially when this seems uncomfortable.
3. “My mother and my brothers and my sisters are those that do the will of my Father in Heaven” (Luke 8:21). How do we know the will of God? We must ponder. We must take time to reflect. Like Mary at the Annunciation. In the prayer the Our Father it says “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10). Not my will. We must let go of our own kingdoms. Our own ego’s desires. For Jewish people of the first century, the Sabbath, the 7th day started from Friday Sun down to Saturday Sun down. The Sabbath was given by God so that people could let go of their own ego’s desires. To let go of the busyness. To Stop. To rest. To hand one’s life over to God. In the community. In family. We are called to live the Sabbath. Not by continuing working, but by resting.
4. The Visitation. This is where the Holy Family really comes to life. The Child leaps in Marys womb. We to are called to bring the Spirit of Mary, Joseph and Jesus to others. Of Nazareth. Jesus sends his disciples out. Not staying at home. We too are called to visit our neighbours. To be creative. By sending a card. By cooking food for neighbours. By cutting their lawns and tend their gardens. Not to convert them, but simply to visit them. Do we visit our neighbours?
5. Work family balance. In first century Palestine, traditionally women would have raised the children and the men would go out to work. In our modern culture community is radically breaking down. To counterbalance this, we must prioritise family time as much as possible. Especially with our children. Family comes first. Not work. There is a cost to this. But there is something deeper here….God
6. Boys (and girls) need male role models. For Jesus he had Joseph, Zachariah and his Father in Heaven. Men need to be present in their lives of their family. Men need to be willing to make sacrifices, like Jesus on the cross, for the ones they love. In our culture today men need to begin cooking, cleaning, playing with the kids and having deep and meaning filled conversations that challenge our children. Not to run away when things seem too hard. But rather, to step into the worlds of their children and the ones they love.
7. The Family Table. Finally, the family table forms the heart of the home in Nazareth. Here is where all the elements can come together. Not by watching the TV or phone over a meal at the dinner table. But by turning all the distractions off and by being present to each other. The family table is about a conversation over a meal. And the meal starts with a prayer
“Thank you, God, for the gifts we are about to receive….through Jesus our Brother”