Sermon given by Father Pancras Raja on January 12th, 2020
“And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them” (Lk. 2: 51)
In these words, St. Luke records the whole of Our Lord’s boyhood and youth. But brief as it is – it teaches us a great lesson on this feast of the holy family.
On this day the Church invites us to contemplate the mystery of Jesus’ humble, hidden life. A feeling of close intimacy and tenderness characterizes this Feast and is expressed in the liturgy of the day: “… it is good for us to recall the little home at Nazareth and the humble life of those who lived there…. In it, Jesus learned St. Joseph’s humble trade, and grew in age, and was happy sharing the work of a carpenter.
Let us enter that little house; in the presence of such humility, which conceals Jesus’ infinite Majesty. Today’s liturgy particularly emphasizes one typical aspect of the humble life of this hidden God: obedience. “Although He was the Son of God … He learned to obey; He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death” (Roman Breviary). From Bethlehem to Calvary obedience was His companion. The Gospel (Luke 2:42-52) stresses this obedience of Jesus at Nazareth in words which carry for all time the strength of their first utterance, “He was subject to them.”
Let us ask ourselves with St. Bernard, “Who obeyed? Whom did He obey?” The Saint replies, “God obeyed man! Yes, the God to whom the angels are subject … was subject to Mary, and not only to Mary, but also to Joseph. For God to obey a woman is humility without parallel…. Let us learn then, to obey; learn, to be submissive. God subjected Himself to men; and are we, desiring to rule others, place ourselves above our Creator?”
His simple, humble life was just like that of any other child of his age. He, the splendor of the Father, did not wish anything to distinguish him from the children of men; He, the uncreated Eternal Wisdom, wished to learn from Mary and Joseph, who were his creatures, the ordinary little details of life. Joseph showed him how to handle his tools and he watched Him attentively, he learned, and he obeyed. Mary taught him holy hymns and recounted tales from the Sacred Scriptures; he listened to her like a humble disciple, he who is the one true Teacher, he who is Truth itself. No one, neither his relatives nor his fellow townspeople, knew who he really was. Everyone believed him to be the carpenter’s son and paid no more attention to him than they would have paid to an ordinary apprentice. Only Mary and Joseph knew; they knew by divine revelation that he was the Son of the Most High, the Savior of the world, and yet they knew it more by faith than by experience. His ordinary way of life concealed his majesty and divinity from them so completely that when, without their knowledge, he remained among the doctors in the Temple, they could not understand the reason for his unusual behavior. But immediately afterward, he wished to return to the hiddenness of his most humble life. He went back with them and was subject to them. And this, day by day, until he was thirty years old.
Let us imitate, at least to some degree, his infinite humility! He, the Creator, was obedient to his creatures. Let us learn to bow our proud head and willingly obey our superiors. Let us ask the grace to humble ourselves, to come down, once and for all, from the pedestal of our pride! How can we bear the sight of his humility and self-effacement, when we, who are nothingness and sin, use the gifts we have received to set ourselves above others, to prefer ourselves even to our superiors?
1. This lesson of obedience is first addressed to our children and our youth. They ought to be subject to their parents. But often, we know, they are not! They are proud, rebellious and totally disobedient. Boys and girls – they will not do what they are told to do. They go to places forbidden by their parents. They do their best to make their parents subject to them! But my dear children, look into the little house of Nazareth. What do you see there? Jesus the Son of God – the lord of all creatures – obedient to Mary and Joseph! There is your example. Follow it!
It was disobedience that made hell for the devil and his angels! So then, you that are young, cut down your pride and be more like Jesus who went down home with his parents and was subject to them. “One man’s (Adam’s) disobedience made all human beings slaves; slaves to the Devil! One man’s (Jesus’) obedience made all free” Romans 5: 19 – “For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners; so also, by the obedience of one, many shall be made just”
2. This lesson of obedience strikes not only the children, but also all of us. In one sense we are all children – children of Holy Mother the Church – whose head is called “Holy Father” and whose priests are called “Fathers”.
Yes, my dear brethren, these are days of disobedience and false independence! How do we show our obedience to the law of our religion? – to the ten commandments? – the precepts of the Church? Yes, we must follow them – follow them all! We must humbly seek advice from our confessors to lead a holy life and strive to follow their advices – if we want to be good Catholics.
See St. Joseph as the model of all fathers, and the Blessed Virgin Mary as the model of all mothers. We must turn a deaf year to the suggestions of “worldly pride” – we must obey the Church and follow her teachings; and submit to all lawful authorities. Show a very good example to your children – in your words and deeds, in your dress and conduct – above all in your life of prayer and sanctity.
All the disorders in the world are due to disobedience. Disorder is sin or sin is disorder. It began with the first parents. They disobeyed God. And therefore, to remove that disorder God obeys man! This is the theme of the feast of the Holy Family.
The Creator of the universe, who called the galaxies into being by the authority of His voice, illustrates by His own life our need to be under authority.
Now we will look at how Jesus Christ’s life exemplified, by His own obedience, our need to obey the authority of God.
Jesus Lived a Life of complete obedience to His Father. ‘Behold, I come . . . that I should do thy will, O God’ (Hebrews 10:7).
All that Jesus did and said was exactly what His Father wanted Him to do and say. “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father who sent Me, he gave Me commandment what I should say, and what I should speak.” (Jn. 12: 49)
Christ’s Complete Obedience Climaxed in His Death
Going to the cross showed obedience. “Being made in the likeness of men, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross” (Philippians 2: 7, 8).
Christ’s Obedience Brings Benefits to Believers When we come to Christ, he will be sympathetic to our needs. “Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace; that we may obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid.” (Hebrews 4:16).
Christ’s Obedience Brings Eternal Benefits