Contemplating Jesus


Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni c.1635

The joy of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem would have surely been the first sign for Mary and Joseph that their journey of faith had been rewarded.

This journey, taken interiorly as well as on a donkey from Nazareth, was one not only guided by the light of faith but imbued with the pre-eminent spiritual virtue of patience.   It was with patience that Mary received Gabriel’s message and agreed to its outcome: it was with patience that Joseph changed his mind about dismissing his future wife to stand beside her through the challenges of her pregnancy and the decrees of tradition.

It seemed that the Holy Family were rooted in the practice of patience from the start – from Mary’s fiat to Joseph’s loving commitment to Jesus’ birth into the humility of homelessness.  At his nativity patience surrounded the stable, where animals accepted their lot tethered to their stalls.  Patience shimmered in the star in the East as it waited for shepherds and wise men to find their way.

By fully accepting their situation, Jesus’ family was bound by a peace that grows from patience: a peace that flowed amid all manner of violence and discord.  A peace that drew them quietly from threats at home on the road to the foreign country of Egypt and a patience that kept them there for 5 or so years.   Jesus exemplified this pervading patience by his returning home with his parents from the temple in Jerusalem (after being lost for three days) and staying with them through to adulthood.

These examples of patience in Jesus’ first family provide a teaching to the way in which humans respond to God.  They point to the necessity of waiting as key to the unfolding wisdom of Divine will.   Jesus himself waited for “his time” before he began performing public miracles (the wedding at Cana ref. John 2:1-11). Bred in patience and humility, Jesus would know only too well that “….everyone who is hasty comes only to want” (Proverbs 21:5). St. Peter, who suffered the curse of impatience wrote,  “…regard the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15).

Waiting on God patiently, with hope and trust, is what the Holy Family exemplified and Jesus taught.   St. Paul prayed that the Ephesians would “with the eyes of your heart enlightened” know “what is the hope to which (the Father of Glory) has called you” (Eph 1:18). He advised them to practice patience, to bear “with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3).

The bond of peace that lived in the patience and loving acceptance of Jesus, Mary and Joseph together on that cold winter night, began the reign of a different way, a gentle way, an accepting way.

Thomas Merton wrote, “The more we are content with our own poverty, the closer we are to God, for then we accept our poverty in peace, expecting nothing from ourselves and everything from God.” *

* Thoughts in Solitude p. 52.

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