Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reflecting on Jesus’ Mission During the First 30 Years of His Life

This article is written by guest blogger Dr. Brian McAdam, FOCUS Missionary in the National Formation Department

Jesus’ mission is disclosed in his very name. “Jesus means in Hebrew: ‘God saves.’ At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission” (CCC #430).

As Christians we often focus on Jesus’ salvific mission as lived out during his public ministry, i.e. the last three or so years of his life, from his baptism by John in the Jordan to his resurrection and ascension. In so doing we are in good company, since that’s what the Evangelists focus on, too. About 95% of the Gospels is devoted to the final years of Jesus’ life; only about 5% deals with the first 30 years.

But Jesus was carrying out his earthly mission during the first 30 years of his life, too. These years are referred to as the hidden life of Jesus. “Jesus’ words and actions during his hidden life ... were already salvific” (CCC # 115).

As Christians, our mission is to fulfill the Great Commission, to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19). We can learn a lot about our mission by reflecting on how Jesus carried out his mission during his hidden life, during the ordinary day-to-day progression of his first 30 years.

As just one example of what reflecting on Jesus’ hidden life can teach us about mission, consider what his first 30 years shows us about the importance of spiritual multiplication through relational evangelization. We already know how important that principle is for evangelization through how Jesus modeled it in his public ministry. During the final few years of his life Jesus did preach to large crowds, true, but most of his time was spent investing in the 12 apostles, and even within that group he invested in a special way in the lives of three—Peter, James, and John. It was then primarily through the apostles that the Gospel spread.

Similarly, and even more dramatically, his hidden life also reveals the importance of spiritual multiplication through relational evangelization. For during 30 whole years Jesus profoundly shared his life not with the masses, and not even with 12 others, but primarily with two other individuals: Mary and Joseph. And consider the tremendous, multiplied impact that Mary and Joseph have had in the life of the Church from their day up to ours!

During this Christmas season, when as a Church we are already reflecting on the early years of Jesus, I invite you to pray over the hidden years of his life. In particular, you can ask Jesus to teach you how the way in which he lived his mission during the first 30 years of his life can better equip you to live your mission now. Here are some suggestions to guide your prayer:

1. Read the few Gospel texts that do reference the first 30 years of Jesus’ life: Lk 1–2; Mt 1–2; Mk 6:3; Jn 6:42 and 7:15.

2. Pray over those texts, but also “pray the gaps” in those texts. That is, enter imaginatively into what Jesus’ life was like during the first 30 years of his life in all those circumstances that aren’t discussed in Scripture. What was his family life like on a day-to-day basis? Who were his friends, how did he interact with them, and how did he share his saving message with them? What was he learning? How did he pray? What was his job as a carpenter like?

3. Jesus lived out his mission not only in the extraordinary moments of his life, but also in the ordinary ones. Ask God to show you how, by following the example of Jesus, you can better live out your mission in life’s ordinary moments.

You can follow Brian on Twitter @BrianMcAdam

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