Hopeful Old Man
2:39-40 and 51-52)
expanse of the Temple of Jerusalem was crammed with vendors. Since very
early in the morning, the sheep were bleating, the pigeons were fluttering
about, and pilgrims, who came to the capital in droves to celebrate
the feast of the Pentecost, were ascending the steps to offer their
first harvest before the Lord…. I remember those days of waiting… Mary,
Jesus’ mother, recounted to us the time when Joseph and she also went
up to Temple, carrying their new-born child, in accordance with the
custom of my compatriots of consecrating to God all first born babies….
a baby boy was born to us, I just had to comply with the law, offering
him to God…. Anyway, on the fortieth day of my childbirth, I was travelling
back to the south… How well I knew the road… even blindfolded…
a three-day journey, we arrived in Jerusalem. Then it was not as modern
as it is now, and there was not so much confusion… We had some rest
in an inn run by Galileans, in Siloam, I think. Then we went up the
Vendor: Money changer, money changer! I change your Greek and
Another Vendor: Sweets!… Some delicious sweets for you!
have some blessed water, to cleanse your big and small wounds?
Vendor: Hey, friend, don’t go away…
you don’t have to pay for looking!
Joseph, look at those beautiful scarves….
made of fine wool! Try this one, young lady and see how nice it is on
the baby for a while, Joseph…
How well it fits you…
you like it, Joseph?
no, but if you do…. Let’s see… hawker, how much is this scarf?
cheap enough…. Touch it, my friend. That’s fine wool from Damascus!
was asking how much….
denarius and the lady has it on already.
what?… A denarius for this piece of old rag? What do you think of us,
stupid? Come, Mary, take it off, and let’s go….
Joseph, this is so pretty…!
it as a present to your loved one. King David won Bathsheba with a scarf….
I’ve won my loved one and I don’t need this… Leave that, and let’s go.
Here, take the baby… Oh women…. anything that fancies them…!
to the law of Moses, all first-born sons must be offered to the Lord.
And usually the ransom price was a sheep or a calf, if the parents could
afford it. If not, like for us, two pigeons would do….
Joseph: I need to buy a pair of pigeons.
Simeon: Here you have them, young man.
was an old man, about a hundred years old. I remember, he had no teeth,
his eyebrows gone, and he had plenty of wrinkles, like a fig leaf in
autumn…. Beside a post was a pile of cages with pigeons inside them….
Joseph: Give me two… Yeah, the black one and the other one… That’s
it… How much, old man?
copper coins for two pigeons.
copper for two pigeons.
hell with you hawkers! Just because we come from the north, do you think
you can fleece us like this?
God’s sake, Joseph, will you stop it!
didn’t start this, Mary. These are cheats who want to take advantage
of a farmer like me….
young man, these are beautiful doves here…
doves! Ha! This one hasn’t any feathers, while the other one is infected
with pip…. C’mon, old fox, give them to me for one copper coin and I’ll
that again? A copper coin? No way, man…. For two pigeons, pay me four
please, don’t quarrel with him! Give him the money and let’s go. It’s
are you crazy, Mary? How can I pay him four copper coins for these sickly
pigeons! For as long as I’m called Joseph, I’m not paying more than
as long as my name is Simeon, I’m not going down from four!
then, goodbye, old thief, keep your pigeons in your ass!
for God’s sake!
said, to put your pigeons back into the cage. Goodbye!
a minute, compatriot, don’t go away…. Oh my, what temper have these
Joseph: What do you want now?
Simeon: You shouldn’t behave that way, man… Look, since you’ve
got a charming little lady here, you can take another pigeon for the
Joseph: How’s that again?
Simeon: I’m giving you three pigeons for four copper coins…
Joseph: What a deal! And what the hell do I need three pigeons
for? I need only two for offering in the Temple.
Simeon: Of the third, you can make a nice, warm soup for your
baby. Am I right, young woman? Of course, this is what I do if I don’t
Joseph: Look, old fogey, there’s nothing more to talk about.
Take these two coins of mine and give me the pigeons. Is that okay?
Simeon: No way. We leave it at three.
Joseph: Go to hell! I’m not paying more than two.
Simeon: Not lower than three!
Mary: Will you stop it, for God’s sake! The boy is getting
scared with your screams!… C’mon, my baby, that’s nothing… it’s okay,
Joseph: Listen to me, stingy, old man, if I had a lot of money,
I wouldn’t be here buying pigeons from you, do you understand?
Simeon: What a joke! If I had a lot of money, neither would I
be here selling them!
Joseph: You’re a leech, feeding on somebody else’s blood!
Simeon: Me, a leech? How can that be when there’s not even a
drop of blood left in my skin? Look at me, son… I’m almost dead, look…
Joseph: Well, you’ll be real dead the moment the Messiah comes
and with his whip, scares all your pigeons away, while he gets on you
and kicks you on the ass, do you hear?
Mary: Joseph, don’t forget your manners….
Do you think the Messiah will do that to me?
Methuselah, to you and to all the bandits making business out of God’s
Simeon: Not me, son, not me. I sell doves in the Temple like
I’m selling eggplants in the square or anything, in order to survive.
Look at me well… I’m a simple man…. I’m not scared of the Messiah, you
know, because maybe he’s got lice in his head, just as I do. Probably
he hasn’t taken any warm food for seven days, like I haven’t. And maybe
he has no place to sleep, as I have none. So, don’t you think the Messiah
and I will understand each other well?
Joseph: Well, I agree with you there, old man….
Simeon: You and I can also understand each other well, young
man. Look, both of us do starve to death, is that right? So, what’s
the use of quarreling with one another, tell me.
Mary: That’s what I’ve been wanting to say….
Simeon: Save that whip of yours, young man, for the leeches in
the palace… They’re the ones who will battle with the Messiah when he
comes…. Come over here…. Do you see those money-filled tables over there
and all those cattle and livestock? All these belong to the family of
Betho!… “Betho’s sons are too religious and too pious…” With their lips
invoking God and their pockets full of what they steal from us…. Oh,
son, if I could only tell you!… But the day of light will come, it will
Joseph: Very well said, grandpa, now you’re talking!
Mary: Hey, don’t create a scene, my goodness! There are so
many people here you don’t know!
Simeon: I shout when I please and I don’t give a damn!! Look
at this Temple, young man! For twenty years, this scoundrel, Herod,
has been making it beautiful, installing marbles and coating it with
gold. And what for, tell me? To make God more comfortable? No, God has
no need for this. The Lord stayed with Moses in a tent when they were
in the desert, and that was enough. All this comfort is for those who
lift their hands to God, yet bow their heads before the golden calf!
Mary: How dare you wake up the baby with your noise!
Simeon: Poor thing…. You see, one gets excited running into enlightened
young people like you…. Sad to say, during my time, things were different….
The youth spoke of the Messiah, then we would argue and quarrel just
to see the children of the Maccabees…. Now, it’s different. All that
the young people of today want is to enjoy themselves and have fun….
Once they see a new scarf, they fancy buying it…
Joseph: That goes for you, Mary…
Simeon: Some people come to me and say: “Forget it, old man,
for this world is hopeless…. You’ll die, but everything will be the
same.” I’d say this is what they want, for us to accept that things
will never change. Of course they will! With young people like you,
we can do something!
Joseph: With us and with the help of those who will push from
behind, grandpa... Look at this Morenito… Know what name we’ve given
him? Jesus, the courageous one. We shall raise him with the milk of
a she-camel, that he may be as obstinate as Moses before the pharaoh,
did you hear that, my son?…
Simeon: Jesus… a beautiful name… for a very good-looking boy…
just like my children when they were small….
Mary: Do you have children, grandpa?
Simeon: I had two, young lady. One died very young… He caught
a fever, and my poverty could not afford a doctor…. The other one was
killed…. When he was your age, he joined these groups in Perea… Herod’s
soldiers killed him, and… ahhh… brace yourself, young lady… if you bring
up this kid to become a fighter, a sword will one day break your heart,
just like mine….
Mary: Oh, God, grandpa, please don’t say that…
up, old man…. with this heat, you can have sunstroke, you know!
that old man selling doves, tearfully asked me to let him carry my baby….
Simeon: What a handsome boy you’ve got, young woman! May the
God of Israel bless him from head to foot!
Mary: Oh yes, may God hear your prayer!
Simeon: I pray that you take good care of him, that you see him
grow up and become a man….
Joseph: You too, will see him such, grandpa….
Simeon: Oh, my son, I have one foot buried in the ground already,
and the other one is almost there…. These eyes of mine have witnessed
a lot… so much violence committed under the sun… so much weeping of
the innocent, waiting in vain to be consoled… so much sneering of the
brazen fools with no one to stop them…. For one hundred years, I have
been waiting for the liberation of my country…. But now, as I hear you
speak, as if a spark has been lit in the middle of the night…. Now,
I’m sure. God will not fail in His promise. Our people shall be free
old Simeon kissed the boy and said….
Simeon: Take him, young woman. Now I can die in peace. In this
boy, as well as in the rest to come, is the salvation of Israel… and
the hope of all those who are suffering like us. Yes, yes, soon we shall
be free, I can feel it in my heart! The Messiah is near, very near us!
Mary: Old man, for God’s sake, please don’t scream!… There’s
a strange woman coming…. I think she’s been watching us for sometime….
Simeon: Who? That old woman?… No, my child, she’s one of us….
Anne, come over here!
Mary: My mother’s namesake. She’s a fat, old woman, all dressed
in black; she has a chubby, smiling face….
Anne: What’s wrong, Simeon?
Simeon: Nothing, woman, I’m just having a chat with this couple
from Galilee who have come to present their little son…
Anne: Lemme take a look…. Oh, what a cute, little darling….
Cucucu… Teach him how to pray, young woman…. mold him while he’s young….
Simeon: That’s the only thing you can do… pray and pray… as if
by doing so, you could intimidate the Lord….
Anne: At least, I exercise my jawbones… you know… and I forget
about my hunger….
Joseph: What do you pray to God, grandma?
I ask Him, son? For eighty-four years I’ve been asking Him the same
thing. Since I became a widow, which was a long time ago, I have always
told the Lord: “Listen to me, either you send me another husband or
you send me the Messiah who will give me justice, I can’t stand it anymore…!”
I swear, God will get annoyed with this same story of mine, but this
won’t stop me!
Simeon: You know what, Anne?… I think God has heard your prayer…
With young people like them on our side, we shall get by… We’re in the
twilight of our lives, Anne... but the torch of Israel shall not die…!
Hey, young man, take your two pigeons and offer them for this little
boy!… And you better hurry, for they might close the gate on you!
Joseph: Wait a minute, grandpa…. Here, take the four copper coins
you were asking from me….
Simeon: No, young man, it’s my present for you… it’s yours…
Joseph: No, grandpa…. you need to eat…. please take these four
Simeon: No, it’s my gift to you, I said!
Mary: Good heavens, now it’s the other way around!
Mary: So we ascended the steps facing the atrium of the women
in order to perform the rite of purification and to present our son
before the altar of the Lord…. When we left the Temple, we didn’t see
old Simeon anymore…. The other day, we looked for him, but Anne, the
praying woman, told us he was very sick…. The following year, when we
traveled to Jerusalem, we asked about him, but no one could tell us
what had happened to the vendor of doves….
laws of Israel pertinent to “purity” rendered the mother “impure” before
God after childbirth. It was believed that childbirth, just like the woman’s
monthly period or man’s seminal discharge, meant a loss of vitality, and
in order to recover it, certain rites had to be performed for them to
reestablish the union with God, who is the source of life. If a woman
had given birth to a baby boy, she was impure for a period of forty days;
and if she had a girl, she was impure for eighty days. After this time,
she ought to present herself in the Temple to purify herself by offering
a sacrificial lamb and a turtledove. If she was poor – such was the case
of Mary – it was enough to offer two turtledoves or pigeons (Lev 12:1-8).
The women were to be purified by the priest gathered in the Temple, at
the gate of Nicanor. This gate was connected to the atrium where the women
could enter the men’s atrium. Here, were purified lepers who were cured.
Likewise, women who were suspected of having committed adultery were tried
was the most important commercial center of the country. Products coming
from all regions as well as abroad were sent to the capital. There were
several markets: for cereals, fruits, legumes, livestock, lumber.... There
was also a place for exhibiting and selling slaves – who were always foreigners.
Everything was announced by shouting in order to excite the customers.
One had to be specially careful at the time of purchase, because here
they used a weight measurement different from that of the rest of the
country. They also used their own currency. Everything was more expensive,
especially food, wine and livestock. If in Jerusalem one could buy three
or four pieces of fig for a copper coin, in the farm, one could have as
many as ten to twenty pieces for the same price. Side by side with the
big businessmen were the small businessmen or retailers and a number of
ambulant vendors. The stalls for the animals being sold for the offering
of sacrifices – lambs, kids (young goats), calves, doves – were positioned
in the esplanade of the Temple. In this atrium, everyone was allowed entry:
men, women and foreigners. It has often been said that the old Simeon
was an official priest of the Temple, although the evangelical text does
not give a reason for such a tradition. In this episode, he appears as
one of the small businessmen who earned his living by selling animals
for sacrifice in the Temple.
his vantage point as vendor, Simeon would be a perennial witness to the
daily activities of the Temple. He knew all those who were in the service
of the grand priests – businessmen and main beneficiaries of whatever
was being sold in the Temple. He also knew the religious sentiments of
the people gathered in that august building, dazzled by its enormity and
wealth. This was the daily ambience of old Simeon. In his midst, he knew
how to keep the flame of his faith in God burning, his hopes for a change,
his longing for justice, his desire that with the coming of the Messiah,
that God “imprisoned” in the Temple, would certainly become close to the
poor. Under this atmosphere, old Simeon must have also become “disillusioned,”
a skeptic. His old age had given him wisdom, had taken away his enthusiasm
for things not relevant and certainly had opened his eyes. He was like
Qohelet (chapters 1-6 of the book of Ecclesiastes), who left in the Scriptures
a wisdom that was profoundly human, fruit of his observation of life and
his desire for God’s justice. Old Simeon and the old woman, Anne, remained
hopeful of the coming of the Messiah. And in that poor and young couple
with a new-born infant in their arms, they knew how to nurture that hope
that life in its beginning always brings.
Jesus a quarrelsome boy, Mary?
quarrelsome boy?… More than the horses of Nebuchadnezzar…. Thank God!
He was always restless…. Joseph used to say that he was made of lizards’
One night, in Mark’s house, Mary shared with us her first years of marriage
in Nazareth, that poor, little town of Galilee, where Jesus spent almost
all his life…
piece of tomato looks like another tomato, is that right? Well, the
same thing could be said in Nazareth: every day seemed the same…. When
the cocks crowed at dawn, the en-tire household was already stirring
like a pot of boiling water…
Mary: Well, another day begins…
Jesus: Grandpa, wake up… it’s morning…!
Grandmother: My goodness… little man, you come in too cool-like fresh
Jesus: Grandpa, grandpa, c’mon… get up….
Mary: Jesus, son, let your grandpa get some more sleep….
Jesus: But he said he’ll teach me how to make knots…
Grandmother: He might end up tying up your tongue… Hey, why is this
dog everywhere!… Jesus, get him out of here!
Jesus: That’s where he sleeps, grandma…
were many of us at home: Joseph’s parents, his uncle Lolo, who was so
sick he could hardly move; we had to do everything for him… Joseph’s
two nieces orphaned at a very young age, and the three of us…. And oh,
Mocho, a puppy whom Jesus found in the field…. He was like his brother
with a tail…. He slept with him, ate with him and went with him everywhere….
He was a black puppy with white ears, I still remember….
Cousin: I want some milk, Aunt Mary!
Cousin: I want an egg!
Mary: Wait a minute…. Be patient, like Job, will you?… Hey,
Jesus, bring me a jug of water to wash up your Uncle Lolo…
Jesus: Is Uncle Lolo very ill, mama?
Mary: Yes, he is.
Jesus: He doesn’t play with me anymore.
Mary: Exactly, because he’s very sick, son…. Look at your father,
still sleeping like a log…. Joseph, get up, man!… How can you go on
sleeping with this noise? C’mon, on your feet, for the sun’s out!
Joseph: Ahumm…! You know what I dreamed of, Mary? That I got
a job, and guess how much I was paid for it… five denarii a day! Did
you hear?… What do you think, huh?
Mary: Well… I think… it’s just a dream… That’s it. That would
have been nice….
Joseph: Something will come up today, you’ll see… I’m going to
Cana right now…. See you, love!
Mary: Aren’t you going to take something hot?
Joseph: Later, when I get there…. It’s better to walk with an
empty tummy… Wish me luck, Mary…
Mary: God bless you, Joseph…
Joseph: I’ll be back in the afternoon…. Goodbye, son!
Jesus: A little peck for Mocho, Papa, or he’ll get jealous…
Joseph: Oh, goodbye, you little fool!
Cousin: Aunt Mary, I want some milk!!
Cousin: And I want
Jesus: What spoiled cousins, Mama!
Mary: Well, just like someone I know…. Jesus, son, could you
check if the hens have lain some eggs?… Bring one for the little girl,
Jesus: Right away, Mama. C’mon, Mocho…!
Mary: Well, God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb…. That’s
mid-morning, we, the women, would gather around the fountain to wash
the clothes… All of us were friends, some were more gossipy than the
others, but all of us were ready to give a hand….
Neighbor: Has Joseph found a job yet?
Mary: He left for Cana today… Let’s hope he finds one… There’s
nothing sure, really.
Neighbor: Everything will be okay, woman… Hey, Nunie, will you
pass the stone!
Mary: You don’t know what appetite Jesus has got… He’s got
an enormous appetite since the time he was growing teeth… Of course,
he’s a growing child….
Neighbor: A growing child and a naughty one…. Always up and about….
The boy is getting mischievous….
Mary: And how…! Only God knows where he is right now…!
used to play in a hill behind the town, with his friends…
Jesus: Okay, it’s your turn to roll over this mudpool! Over
this mudpool, do you get it! Go ahead, Boy…!
three, that’s nothing!… Look at this…
Boy: Five!… You’re king!
Jesus: Wait, it’s my turn!… I’ll have seven!
Playmate: You won’t even score a two, Jesus, not even a two… You
Jesus: Stay here, Mocho, and look what I’ll do… You’ll see!
Boy: Five!… It’s a tie!
Playmate: Let’s break the tie between Jesus and me!
Jesus: Well… well… let’s see, whoever pees much longer… becomes
Playmate: Stay over there and don’t pee on me!…
Jesus: Three, two and one!… I won, I won….
Playmate: Hey, the girls are coming….
Jesus: Hide yourselves… we’re going to scare them!…
what’s the food?
Mary: The usual stuff. Lentils and… my God, Jesus, where’ve
Jesus: We’ve been tumbling and I was splashed with mud. Mocho,
too… but he’s okay now….
Mary: It’s all over your body…. Just like Adam in paradise…
Jesus: Who’s Adam, Mama?
Mary: Better ask the Rabbi this afternoon…. Go and take off
your clothes at once….
Jesus: You mean I’ll stay naked?
Mary: Of course not! You may wear your father’s robe…
Jesus: I’ll be dragging it along!
Mary: It’s you and your ears I’ll be pulling! Go now!
were seated on the ground, with the pot of lentils in the middle. There
was always not enough, with so many mouths to feed…
Jesus: I want some more, Mama.
Mary: There’s nothing more, son….
Grandmother: Give him an egg. Eggs are good for the bones!
Cousin: I also want an egg!
Jesus: You’re like a hen, who always cackles…. Here, take it,
Joseph: I’m back…
Mary: Oh, Joseph, I thought you’d be back in the afternoon…
Joseph: Well, I’m here, you see….
Joseph: You heard it… nothing. There’s no job in the entire Galilee.
Grandmother: Naturally, all the work is found here in this house.
Joseph: This isn’t the time for jokes, grandma.
Mary: Sit down, Joseph and take something.
Joseph: I’m not hungry… I’m going to see Jack. He’d been in Nain.
Maybe he found some job there… Damn, what a life!
Jesus: Papa is sad, Mocho…. Isn’t he, Mama?
Mary: Yes, Jesus. One’s got to work to be able to eat lentils
and eggs…. The rich don’t have to work to fill their stomachs, but we….
were times when Joseph didn’t have a job… I tried to make both ends
meet….We extended our soup by adding more water, while we sang our sorrows
away…. We didn’t have any choice….
Mary: Is the dough ready, mother-in-law?
Grandma: Yes, my dear…. At least, at least we have bread…. Hey,
where could be Jesus right now, huh?
Mary: In the synagogue. That will keep him still for a while…
Grandma: I’m sure Mocho’s gone with him.
Mary: Of course, grandma. Do you know that Mocho must learn
the Scriptures too? Jesus says dogs too, sing praise to the Lord when
went to the synagogue in the afternoon…
Jesus: Rabbi, Mama said I was like Adam.
Rabbi: She said so because you are a son of God like the first
man on earth….
Jesus: No, Rabbi, she said it while scolding me.
Rabbi: Then, you must have been disobedient, Jesus.
Jesus: I didn’t disobey her. I was just dirty.
Rabbi: Now I know why, young man… God took Adam from mud. Maybe
you were full of mud then, is that right, Jesus?
Boy: Rabbi, this boy spat on me!
Rabbi: Now, now… You listen. You should not spit…. Let’s read
that part when God created the first man out of the dust of the earth….
Mary: Every afternoon, Rabbi Manasseh,
that very patient old man, who was already a little blind, and who had
circumcised Jesus, would unroll the sacred books in order to teach
the children of Nazareth how to read them.
Rabbi: C’mon, son, bring that book… closer…. I can’t see the
letters well…. That’s it…. Come, Jesus, read this part… yes, this one….
Jesus: “We shit out of hunger.”
Rabbi: What did you say, son…?
Jesus: We shit out of hunger. It says here.
Rabbi: Let me see… We seek the Maker!… Go on, continue…
Jesus: “Call them to obey”…
Jesus: “Call them to obey”…
Rabbi: What are you saying…? “According to our image”…
Jesus: According to our image…
Jesus: It says here…
Rabbi: Sincerity! What a boy!
Boy: Jesus can’t
read! He can’t read!
Jesus: Neither can you!
Rabbi: Silence boys!
hours in the afternoon passed by peacefully. At sundown, the farmers
would return to their homes, tired, after a day of hard work. After
washing their feet, they would go out and play dice…. At night, the
cool breeze from the north blew over Nazareth. It was the right time
to get together and chat…. Since everyone was asleep, including Mocho,
and the house being so small, we could hardly pass, Joseph and I would
go out and there on dry ground, we would lean against the wall of our
Mary: Ufff… I’m dead tired….
Joseph: Mary, this noon, I was a little cranky… you see….
Mary: That’s okay, Joseph…. I understand… after having walked
so many miles under the sun…? Tell me, what did Jack tell you about
the job in Nain…?
Joseph: They’ll probably hire another dozen men to work in the
Mary: So, hang on to this group…. Or else….
Joseph: Or else, all we’ve got is air in our tummies…
Mary: No, man, don’t be so pessimistic… God won’t forsake us…
Look how fast our boy is growing up…. We’ll manage, all of us…. You
and I love each other…. What more do you want, sir…?
Joseph: You’re right, Mary… well, as always, woman!… For this,
you deserve a kiss… Now, let’s go to sleep… I must be up early tomorrow…
Mary: Look who’s talking, the sleepiest head in the whole of
Mary: That was our life… There was practically nothing to talk
about during those years… We worked very hard, but we loved each other
even more… Jesus grew up to be a strong and tall young man… and he learned
a lot of things… God was with him.
gospel does not say anything about the life of Jesus during those long
years of his infancy, adolescence and youth, except that one scene of
a boy lost in the Temple. This shows that Jesus’ life had nothing special
during this period. In order to have a glimpse of this, we must understand
the social and cultural environment of Nazareth of that time, the customs
of the farmers, etc. Everything we say about this period will always be
an approximation, as we can never be absolute about it.
order to show the “ordinary” life of Jesus during these years, Luke says
that “the boy grew in stature, and strength and was filled with wisdom.”
Like each one of us, Jesus developed physically, intellectually and spiritually
with the passing of time. He learned how to walk, pray, read, love and
work. He learned everything he saw and heard. He was not born with a package
of wisdom under his arm. He had to discover it. He doubted and made mistakes
many times. Just as his body was growing and his muscles and bones were
developing, even his knowledge of God was being nurtured in his heart.
He grew “in the grace” of God: he began to understand God’s purpose for
him, what his vocation was to be. His life, like anybody else’s, was subjected
to a process of growth. He developed his body, his intelligence, his will,
his faith, his hope... Just like everyone....
child Jesus did not do any “miracles” nor dazzle anyone during those long
years. To make a “model boy” out of him, who does nothing but obey, keep
quiet and pray, is to convert him to somebody unbearable.
played, committed some mistakes, had friends, would quarrel and laugh
with them.... Just like any other healthy boy... He learned from the preoccupations
of his parents the harsh reality of life, its uncertainties and problems.
He knew of God’s kindness through the love of his parents and through
the teachings he read in the Synagogue.
only school for the children of a village like Nazareth and the other
small cities was the synagogue. Every Saturday, the community gathered
here to pray and to listen to the Scriptures. The boys also learned how
to read. It was not considered a necessity for the girls to learn and
only well-to-do families from the capital received instruction. The boys
learned how to read from the texts of the Bible. Learning, therefore,
was not only a mechanical process of joining words and phrases, but a
way of familiarizing the children with the history of the country and
the traditions of their forefathers. This was a way of transmitting faith
in the Lord, the constant protagonist of the pages of those books.
idea that is sometimes pictured about the “small house of Nazareth” is
entirely false. It is described as a poor house, where Mary does her sewing
in peace, while Joseph cuts wood while praying in a room at the backyard.
This is not a real image. The houses in Nazareth were made out of natural
caves in the hill where the village was located. They were very small,
intended practically solely for sleeping. It was common to see a big household
living inside the cave, as the family was composed of many members. The
children’s obligations to their parents, their brothers and sisters, their
cousins, were something held sacred and respected by everyone. The atmosphere
was that of utter poverty. It was a day to day existence, a continuous
pressure for the head of the family to secure some job. The women worked
too, doing not only household chores but also farm work, in order to assist
their husbands. This was the environment where Jesus grew up, where he
became aware of the needs and aspirations of his people, where his faith
in God was nurtured. Within this simplicity, of which nothing can hardly
be said since there was nothing significant about it, Jesus molded his
character, in which God revealed himself to us in a definitive manner.
2:39-40 and 51-52)
Taken from the book: A Certain Jesus, Vol. 3 (Chapters
Copyright @ 1998 by Claretian Publications,
book offers a new approach to appreciating the life of Jesus. The first
part of the Chapter is in dialogue form in an up-to-date conversational
language. This makes the reader realize that Jesus was once a very ordinary
guy, a typical man in his time. The last part of each chapter contains
an explanation of the biblical references, thus giving one the perspective