Today is the feast of the Holy Family. While we usually celebrate this feast on a Sunday, when there is no Sunday within the octave of Christmas, like this year, we celebrate this feast on the sixth Day of the octave.
When we think of Jesus’ life, we naturally think of the big things. It’s natural that our feasts revolve around the big moments, the theophanies, the Paschal Mystery. But there is more to the mysteries of Christ’s life than the Passion and Resurrection. The mystery of redemption is not just at work in his death and resurrection. Rather, the mystery of the Redemption is at work throughout his life, including “in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience” (CCC 517). He is saving us not just on the Cross, but also at his workbench.
For 91% of Jesus’ life, he was living quietly with Mary and Joseph. The Holy Family was living a normal Nazarene life. Think about that. Most of his life was not spent preaching and doing miracles. It was spent as an obedient son to Mary and Joseph. When he at last goes out in his public ministry, he is simply known by his work as a carpenter and his parents (Mark 6:3, Mt 13:55). Why? Because that’s what he was doing for years. For years, nothing had set him apart. Even though he was God, he quietly worked in Nazareth. He built things with wood and stone. He made money to support his mother.
For most of Jesus’ life, he lived in an unknown little town and worked as a laborer. He lived as a son of mother and a father. He went to school. And this wasn’t just him shooting the breeze until he was old enough to start his public ministry. This wasn’t just him killing time until his real work could start. This time was part of his redeeming work.
Redemption comes to us above all in the Cross, but he didn’t start at that moment. He also redeemed us through his hidden life. And by doing this, he sanctified work. He sanctified childhood. He sanctified every day life.
It’s tempting to focus on the way the Holy Family was so different from our families. The Son of God, a mother conceived without sin… what could we have in common with that? But on this feast, let’s instead focus on why Jesus chose to spend most of his life this way. He wanted to live our life. He wanted to sanctify the experiences we have. The Holy Family spent their days like us. And that simple life was lived for God because it was marked with obedience, humility, and love.
The feast of the Holy Family reminds us that daily life is good. Work is good. Families are good. This is the stuff of sanctity. These things are not just waiting rooms or pauses until we get to the good stuff. The daily normalcy of life is what God gives us to make us holy.
What work does he want you to do for him today? Are you missing the mission because it seems too normal, too ordinary, too plain? 91% of Jesus’ life looked a lot like yours. May that be a reminder to us not to squander the grace he has to give us, or the opportunities for holiness. May this feast remind us of the goodness of daily life and inspire us to live each moment for God: in obedience, humility, and love.