God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven begins in little house of Nazareth and in our hearts
By Bishop Richard F. Stika
“He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth.” — Matthew 2:23
A dwelling in Nazareth. Christmas, like Easter, is so special, so full of wonder and grace, that the Church celebrates it as an Octave—as a Sunday of eight days. And within this holy Octave of Christmas, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
It reminds us, as expressed in the Collect prayer at the beginning of this Mass, to ask God for the gift of living “in the joy of your house”—as a little house of Nazareth. And when we let our heart become such for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, our ordinary life and acts become truly extraordinary in meaning, divine purpose, and joy.
Discounting the ordinary. Very little is revealed in the Gospels about the so-called “hidden life” of Jesus in Nazareth. So seemingly unremarkable were Jesus’ days and years among the people of Nazareth before He began His public ministry, that when He returned to preach the Gospel to them, the townspeople rejected Him because there had been nothing extraordinary about His life growing up among them. They could not fathom how the kingdom of God could manifest itself in the ordinariness of this “Nazorean” of seemingly lowly origins, much less in each of their own lives (Luke 2:51; cf. Matthew 13:54-58).
But that is how God works with us—in the ordinariness of our life. So, to allow our heart to become a “little house of Nazareth” is to allow God to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary, investing it with the divine.
Extraordinary in the ordinary. These hidden years of Jesus with Mary and St. Joseph were not empty, meaningless days, as if they were some sort of long, but necessary, interlude between His birth and His public ministry, passion, and cross. Christ wanted to repair, requite, and reorder for every aspect of our fallen lives. As expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life” (n. 533).
Though we may feel almost invisible in the sight of others, and the ordinariness of our day-to-day life may seem meaningless, the little house of Nazareth teaches us otherwise. It invites each of us to become like a little child so that God can form His kingdom in us and reign in all the ordinariness of our life (cf. Matthew 18:3).
Hidden in the ordinary. What was the Holy Family’s life like in Nazareth? Though those many years are referred to as “hidden,” I like to think that the Holy Family’s life was merely hidden within the “ordinariness” of their lives.
Certainly, there were the general day-to-day routines we all have: the morning routine of awakening, dressing, praying, preparing meals, shopping for food and necessities, daily work, cleaning, laundering, resting, sleeping, as well as the sufferings, trials, and difficulties none of us are immune from.
But there was also a special love of silence that we must also seek to preserve within our heart and lives if the mystery of grace—God’s life in us—is to grow and invest and enliven the ordinary with the divine. Ask St. Joseph for this most necessary gift of silence and a listening heart.
God’s holy land. Jesus tells us that “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Though more popularly translated as “among you,” the more accurate translation is “within you,” many scholars tell us. And this is important, for each of us is God’s “holy land,” and He wants to make our heart a most intimate garden of communion with Him. Let it be a garden home of the Holy Family!
Holy Communion. Consider how we pray the Lord’s Prayer after the consecration of the Eucharist during Mass, with its greatest petition to the heavenly Father, “Thy kingdom come,” and how immediately prior to Holy Communion we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
We are about to welcome Christ and the reign of His kingdom into our heart. And what better way to welcome Him than to ask Mary, our Mother (cf. John 19:27), and St. Joseph, our spiritual father, to assist us at this moment of communion that our heart’s dwelling should truly be a house of Nazareth. Consider how the mystical words of the Song of Songs speak to this most beautiful moment of our communion:
“When I found Him whom my soul loves, I held Him, and would not let Him go until I had brought Him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me” (3:4).
Welcoming a new religious order. This is why I am particularly excited to have officially decreed and welcomed to our diocese the Benedictines of Divine Will as a public association of the faithful on Dec. 12, 2022, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. For not only are they establishing St. Benedict’s monastic life of prayer and work among us, with their great love of eucharistic adoration, and devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and to the Chaste Heart of glorious St. Joseph, but their greatest desire is for us to become little houses of Nazareth, where the kingdom of the Divine Will can live and reign in us as it is in heaven.
And this is what the Church has been praying for in the Lord’s Prayer, which is why they also have a strong devotion to the life and writings of Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta (1865-1947), whose cause for beatification was opened in 1994.
Come, Lord Jesus! For 4,000 years, the Israelites prayed for the coming of the Messiah. And when He dwelt among us, He taught us the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), and for 2,000 years the Church has been praying, “Thy kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” But in the two millennium that have passed, can we really say that His Will is done on earth as in heaven? But if Jesus taught us to pray for it—if He placed this prayer at the center of the Church’s heart as its greatest petition—then we know it will be fulfilled. And the Benedictines of Divine Will have something beautiful to share with us about this.
So, may your heart be a little home of Nazareth where the Church’s prayer echoes continuously, “Come Lord Jesus!” Come kingdom of the Divine Will!