21: The Mercy of God’s Silence (Part 6)

The great patristic tradition teaches us that the mysteries of Christ all involve silence.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

We know nothing about the early life of Jesus from the time of the flight to Egypt to the time in which we find ourselves, with His Blessed Mother and St. Joseph in the Temple, astounded that He was conversing with the Teachers in the Temple:

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety."

And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (Luke 2:41-52)

From this hour onward, the Holy Family lived in obscurity and silence. No records or traditions have been passed down to us to let us know about their lives over the next eighteen years. No writings, no observations are known to exist about this time in the life of Jesus. This is known as the “hidden life” of the Lord.

If we meditate on this truth, we can draw some conclusions. God’s silence, and the hidden life of God on earth, do not indicate that nothing was happening. God was obviously working in history, as we are told by Saint Luke that Jesus “advanced (in) wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” The hand of the God of history, the life of “The Redeemer of Man, Jesus Christ” who is “the center of the universe and of history” (Pope St. John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis) is still active, still moving toward that redemption for which Christ took on a human body and lived and worked and grew in the quiet life of obscurity.

The actual presence of God among us, Emmanuel, was not made known in thunder and lightning, or earthquake and fire. It was not shouted from the rooftops nor greeted with trumpets. The silence of God was and is a holy thing. It does not mean that God is absent or that He is unaware. It simply indicates that He is working continually. As Jesus grew and as He learned His trade, as He learned his religion in the household of faith from Mary and Joseph, as He learned what is meant to be righteous and holy, to be obedient to God and to those responsible for Him, He was preparing for the day when He would set out to accomplish the task that had been set for Him from the beginning: the salvation of the world!