I don’t think anyone can deny that it’s easy to feel stressed, overwhelmed and anxious when life gets too busy. The issue is that, no two people define “too busy” exactly the same way. While I certainly don’t know how to achieve a perpetual, perfect, peaceful state of mind, I do know one thing. Simplicity, stillness, prayer, and family life are conducive toward joyful, peaceful living. As I try to prepare my heart and mind and home for the coming Christmas season, I find myself pondering the Family of Nazareth. Family life and simplicity appear to have been integral components of the life of Jesus Christ on earth.
Jesus is God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. God could have redeemed the world any way He chose. As it turns out, He not only chose to tell us how to live, He came to earth to show us how to live. I don’t know about you, but I trust the Word of God and example of Jesus more than anything a mere mortal says or does to try to convince me on life issues. It’s definitely an understatement to say that life is different nowadays than it was in Biblical times. Is everything different, though? I don’t think so.
Family life and simplicity were core issues back then
Much of Jesus’s life on earth remains a mystery to us; however, the Bible provides glimpses of the family life and simplicity that He enjoyed. We know from reading Scripture that, Jesus was fully engaged in life with His mother, Mary, and foster father, Joseph. I have always loved the fact that God chose a foster father for the Savior. Again, He could have devised Salvation through any means. I think the fact that He included a foster father shows us His compassion and empathy. He knew that many earthly families would not be “typical.” Not all children would be brought up with two biological parents. The model and dynamic of the Holy Family shows us that family life and simplicity doesn’t mean every family must be exactly the same.
Consider the roles of men and women in Nazareth
As I ponder the daily lives of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, several issues stand out in my mind. I am convinced that these issues are keys to a happy family life, not just then, but in modern times, as well. First, there were clearly established gender roles. In most households, in the farming village where Jesus grew up, fathers went out to work and mothers worked at home. (Yes, the Proverbs 31 woman went out on business. It was typical for mothers at home in those days, just as it is typical now.) What was, perhaps, more unique in Biblical times was that men and women generally acknowledged and embraced their separate roles. It’s true that society considered women second-class citizens back then, but the focus here is on family life, not political or legal issues. (It’s logical to assume we’re all happy certain things have changed in the modern world.)
Scripture tells us Joseph was a carpenter. We also find evidence that the Holy Family was not wealthy although Joseph came from a royal lineage. While he mastered his trade, he brought his Divine Son alongside to teach and instruct Him. They spent a lot of time together. Sadly, family life and simplicity is difficult to achieve nowadays. Could it be partially due to the fact that fathers are non-existent or non-engaged in a large percentage of households?
Daily life for Jesus of Nazareth
Mary would have lovingly and willingly tended her home while her husband and son were at work each day. She likely traveled to market, made purchases for her family and focused on providing meals and creating a peaceful, joyful, holy atmosphere in the home. Jesus no doubt enjoyed healthy food, such as honey, cheese, vegetables, fruit and poultry. We know that families used many herbs and spices, not only to flavor their food but to promote good health, too. It was common to have two main meals per day back then. Family life and simplicity flourished when mothers willingly and lovingly prepared healthful meals.
As a Jewish family, Mary, Joseph and Jesus prayed daily and devoutly practiced the tenets, customs and traditions of their faith. A stark difference I notice between daily life in Jesus’s time and life today is that, families did not compartmentalize their faith back then. Prayer, faith, church laws and community were interwoven in every moment of every day. Could it be that we have lost our sense of this in the modern world because practicing our faith has become secondary outside of church on Sundays?
Surrender to God’s Will took priority over all else
Let’s not sugarcoat anything when discussing the life of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The people scorned Mary and persecuted her with gossip and accusation, believing she had sinned to conceive her child. Mary and Jesus would suffer the great loss of Joseph. Jesus would face rejection and condemnation by family, friends and strangers. Mary would be left to watch in agony as her Son suffered a criminal’s execution as an innocent man. Definitely no small matters here. Shouldn’t we be in awe that, no matter what trials befell this family, every member surrendered to God’s will? In each instance, Mary, Joseph and Jesus willingly endured hardship and personal sacrifice to do God’s will. Their faith never wavered.
Family life and simplicity cannot exist without trusting God and surrendering to Him in all things. The Holy Family of Nazareth embraced hard work with dignity. They prayed. As a family, they dined together. Like most practicing Jews of their time, they celebrated special occasions and holy days. Daily life was by no means easy when Jesus walked the earth. Yet, this family, whom God chose to show us how to live, remained joyful, faithful and loyal to one another and to their Father in heaven. This family was counter-cultural in many ways. I adamantly believe that anyone whose ultimate goal is to enjoy and live a holy life must also be willing to reject secular, politically-correct ideas. Are you longing for peace? Is your family struggling? Why not spend some time reading and thinking about Mary, Joseph and Jesus of Nazareth? Tales of their daily life just might hold the inspiration and encouragement you need.