"And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth and was subject to them." Luke 2:51
Knowing as we know, my brethren, what the history and the manifold experience of eighteen hundred years have taught us, concerning the life, and the mission, and the work of Jesus Christ in the world, it is very instructive to turn to the record of His life, which inspired pens thought fit to leave for the scrutiny of mankind. As might have been expected in a work wherein the Holy Ghost was the chief worker, there is in every word of the Gospel a meaning, and a depth, and a significance, which a whole lifetime of saintly meditation would be insufficient to exhaust. But more than this, and this is what I particularly wish to turn your attention to at present; it is not only the things that are written in the Gospel that are instructive, but also the things that have been left unwritten.
The truth is, the Holy Ghost does not write biography as men would be inclined to think biography ought to be written. Even when the Holy Ghost is treating of the life of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, there are many details over which a human, a merely human pe3n, would love to linger, but which the pen of the Evangelist, passing by utterly, invests only with the eloquence of silence.
Christmas was past; the Christ had come; we have gone step by step through the history of that coming. Into the deep skies of the distant East, the hand of God had flung a new and luminous star, that had lighted up the obscure tradition of a Redeemer, that had lingered amongst the far-off people of the Gentile world; and kings with the dusky hue upon their foreheads, of still more Eastern lands, had come in their barbaric splendor, and flung their treasures down before the newly born Infant. Another sign had been that the Child had come Who was to grow into the “Man of sorrows,” for the cry; of desolate mothers had filled the land, and had gone up to God when Herod’s sword gave the darker memories of blood to the birthplace of Jesus.
But what was to come of all this? I ask you: Is it not strange that when all these things had passed and gone, a silence falls upon the life of Jesus? His boyhood has no record, His early manhood not a vestige of a history. Once, and only once in all those years do we see Him, teaching in the Temple, and then just when He seemed to be beginning His real work, Mary’s voice calls Him away, calls Him home. The Mother claims her Child and has her claim allowed. He goes back to Nazareth, and the story of His divine life up to His thirtieth year, where is it written? It is written nowhere upon earth save in the heart of Mary. For us, for the world, for all future time, the Holy Ghost sees fit to compress it all, into the limit of three words, Erat subditus illis – “He was subject to them”
But in those three words, in the picture they give to a meditative soul, of the life at Nazareth, there is depth of teaching which might well be the foundation of a thousand sermons. Do not think, to-day, if I put before you one very obvious lesson from this passage of the Gospel; do not think that I have gone below the very surface of its significance. The lesson is this: -
Jesus preparing to overthrow the kingdom of Satan, and the power of evil, and the reign of injustice, begins his preparation in the quiet obscurity of a humble home, finding within the walls of a poor mean cottage, in the relations of duty which He had been pleased to contract towards two of his own creatures Mary and Joseph, finding in these full scope, as much as the divine wisdom deemed needful, for the exercise of every virtue of His sacred humanity.
Why did He do this? My brethren – He wished to lay deep, by the labor of thirty years, the foundation of that school where men might learn to sanctify themselves for Him – the school of the Christian home. The home where those who bear command have a likeness of Mary and Joseph, and where children grow from grace to grace after the model of the Child Jesus. This is a picture of what the Christian home should be – and, however grand the outward history, however glorious the traditions, however great the political or even the religious achievements of a people; if their home life, that life they lead when the door has closed upon their dearest friend and their closest acquaintance, and they take their place in this own families by their own fireside; if the life there be not Christian, be not pure, be not hallowed by the virtues of home, be not, in its measure, somewhat like the life of the Holy Family at Nazareth; then, be that people’s outdoor virtue what it may, it is hastening to social, and political, and religious decay.
To this matter, however, I hope to return at some future time, and to develop, as best I may be able, the idea of the Christian home that has been implanted in the mind and memory of the Church by the life at Nazareth. At present, let me draw your attention to this one thing. Our Blessed Lord having come upon earth expressly to do good, to overthrow evil, to confer upon the human race blessings which none but a Divine person could have conferred; He, with all this work before Him of redeeming and regenerating the human race, chose to spend, in the obscurity of a poor home, in the daily duties of what would seem to the eyes of men so narrow a life, thirty years out of a life that was limited to thirty-three. There, my brethren, was the highest and most perfect life that could possibly be lived, and it was lived within as small a home and as narrow – seemingly narrow – a round of duties, as can possibly be the lot an any person in this assembly.
Ah! If we want to do good, let us not complain of want of opportunity. By the very fact that God has created you, He has given you a part to play greater than which He has not given to the monarchs of the world. I say, if we want to do good. It is our business to do good in the world. Indeed, the obligation of doing good in some way is so generally acknowledged that no one would be willing to admit that his life was utterly worthless. Every one will take his stand upon some good he either is doing, or imagines himself to be doing in the world. And there are some who, not satisfied with doing good for themselves and their families, will entertain lofty projects of doing good to society, to their town, or their country, or their native land, or even to the whole human race. It is found especially in youth, and it is a graceful and a precious thing in youth; it is fund often, that when a young man standing upon the threshold of manhood, looking out upon the world in whose work he is about to take a part, sees the many wrong, and hateful, and unjust things that are being daily done under the sun; he feels his heart within him expanding with a love of justice, and a hatred of oppression, and he will at any rate glow with the desire to raise up the oppressed, and t do battle for the fallen, and to hasten by the shout of his mouth, and if need and opportunity were, by the stroke of his right hand, the reign of justice in this weary world. And this very feeling it is, that so often throws young men into the hands of those colder and more calculating spirits who, professing a sympathy which they do not feel, and are incapable of feeling, with the aspirations of youthful enthusiasm, seek to use its unsuspecting ardor for the furtherance of base designs and selfish ends.
Yes; there are always men, and in later years they are numerous and noisy, who single themselves out from their fellow-men, and proclaim that they have some great plan to set the whole world right. And their clap-trap professions sometimes cajole the young and unwary, for youth is enthusiastic, and though youth is mostly honest, yet, youth is often foolish, and lies at the mercy of the crafty brain and the flattering tongue.
Ah! To these young men, ardent, unselfish, enthusiastic, who with their beautiful illusions, and their impracticable projects, are the hope of the future; who feel their hearts hot with indignation at the oppression and the injustice which they see, or have imagined; who long to rush into the press of battle, and make the bad world good by very force and compulsion; to such I would speak thus: -
“The feeling that prompts you is a noble feeling; hate injustice and wrong as much as you will, never can you to much hate them. You want to make the bad world good; it is noble wish. Cherish it as you cherish the apple of your eye. But remember this; your voice is weak and your arm is not far-reaching, and you may shout and strike till voice and strength are gone, and very little impression will you make on the large world that lies outside your father’s house, outside your native town, outside your parish, or your country, or your native land. But be not discouraged; do not think that this noble hatred of wrong and this noble love of justice were given to you in vain. There is one thing you can do, begin to make things better, not at a distance which your voice and hand may never reach; but begin first in your own heart, in your own home. Begin, not with impracticable dreams of making the great world better, but begin to make better that little spot of it, where God has posted you to do His work and fight His battles. Begin to put your vigor and your enthusiasm into the doing of the little homely duties that meet you every day. Be better sons to your parents, better brothers to your sisters, better neighbors to your fellow-men, more forbearing towards each other, more charitable to the poor, better Christians, better Catholics, more loyal and devoted children to the Church, your mother. And, when you have exhausted the possibilities of perfection in these things, the, but scarcely till the, seek to make the large world better. But oh! As you value truth, do not suppose that you can make up for failure in your common duties by your ardor in politics or your professions of patriotism. For, I ask you, is there a more hateful and more despicable thing on all the broad earth, than to see a man come forward with his plans and projects for the regeneration of his country and his kind, while he is doing absolutely nothing to regenerate himself, and make himself worthy of the eternal destiny for which God created him?”
My brethren, there was One who appeared in the world with the fullest possible knowledge of the evils that weighed upon the human race, and with the most ardent desire, and the most infallible means to remedy them all; that Person was Jesus Christ. What example did He leave us? How did He set about His work? Three words tell the story; Erat subditus killis. H e was subject to them; subject to Mary and to Joseph, subject to the conditions of the lowly lot He had selected for Himself; subject to just such every-day duties as you also find ready to your hand. Go ye, therefore, and do as He did; fulfill the ordinary duties of your Christian lives; and so, like Him, too, you will grow from wisdom to wisdom, from grace to grace, and when the God Who will judge you, shall ask, “How has your life been conformable to His commandment?” Let your angel be able to answer for each of you: Erat subditus illis.