March 13, 2011

The Hidden Life of Christ and our Life

Yesterday, I was invited to lecture on the hidden life to the spiritual family of the Oblates of St. Joseph in Santa Cruz, California.  Many of those present for the lecture actually taught me the faith during my childhood and teenage years - not only by their words but even more by their wonderful examples: generous service to the poor, a disciplined humble life, and patient daily prayer.  It was a room filled with champions, some in wheel chairs!  We joined together as part of nine days of prayer leading up to the Solemnity of St. Joseph.

What is the hidden life? Part of the life of Christ was public - like when he preached and healed and was put to death.  But the larger part of his life was hidden - for almost thirty years he lived day to day in the silent mystery of family and work in an obscure village.  He lived in obedience to Mary and Joseph and grew in wisdom.  What characterized life at Nazareth?  Trust in God, renunciation of everything that did not serve love of God or love of one another, offering everything that happened in the household as worship of God, treating one another and all their guests with great kindness and loving mercy, and most of all - deep prayer.

Christians are bound to these hidden mysteries of his life - by faith, their wisdom is impressed in our hearts and meant to envelope our whole existence in day to day concrete ways.  Understanding this might help explain why after we initially encounter the Lord and his great love, He seems to disappear or become absent for awhile.  He is drawing us beyond sensible consolation - things that make us feel good - and into spiritual consolation - things that in fact make us good.  He is drawing us beyond good feelings and into the depths of his love itself.  If we want to thrive in our faith, we must follow Him into these depths.

The Lord lives in the secret of our faith - and He wants us to go by faith to find him:  this means we must, like He did, make hidden renunciations, dedicate ourselves to holiness in our humble daily tasks, be merciful and kind especially when no one notices, and make prayer the priority of our hearts.  St. Paul explains this in Colossians 3:1-3 - where he explains that Christ is in the heavens and that we are to think of him and not the things of earth.  Indeed, he explains, we are spiritually dead to the world - and our lives are hidden with Christ in God.