The Apostles were witnesses to the ministry of Jesus. Not a lot is known about Jesus’ early life aside from the narratives of his birth and during his adolescence in the temple. It’s important to note, Jesus’ public ministry may have started at his baptism by John the Baptist but we can make some assumptions based on the few early accountings of Jesus’ life, that he ministered even from a young age.
Christ whose life is a “mystery of redemption and recapitulation” (CCC, 517,518), designed to free man from the stain of original sin and help restore us to our rightful place with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Christ lived the life of a poor man who labored with his human father as he grew. He lived a humble life to be our role model and provide us the example to imitate. Christ’s riches were not of this earthly realm but the heavenly realm and we, too, are invited to share in these heavenly riches by taking up our own cross and becoming disciples of Christ. Christ wants us to live in him and him in us. We’re given this opportunity every day in the way that we conduct our own interactions. Jesus left us with one new commandment, “love one another” (NASB, John 13:34).
Jesus’ life was mapped out long before he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. God knew that we would need redemption and planned a means for us to fulfill his original intention for us to join him in Paradise. God became man to provide us the opportunity of Salvation.
Jesus’ human story begins at his conception and then continues with his birth. He is visited by the wise men of the East, who represent pagan religions. This is an incredible occurrence if we consider the world at large had no revelation to the birth of our Lord, as the prophecies were of Israelite origin for the lineage of King David. Jesus was rejected by his own people yet revered by magi from a completely different belief system. The miracle we celebrate at Christmas goes far beyond the influence of a group of growing believers. It opens the door for all humanity to join God in heaven. The coming of the magi “means that pagans can discover Jesus and worship him as Son of God and Savior of the world only by turning toward the Jews and receiving from them the messianic promise as contained in the Old Testament” (CCC, 528).
The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee”. The Epiphany shows that ‘the full number of the nations’ now takes its ‘place in the family of the patriarchs’ and are made worthy of the heritage of Israel” (CCC, 528).
Jesus, as he grew, lived an ordinary life and adhered to the Jewish law of God. As he aged, he grew in his wisdom. His time in the temple at age 12 is a clear example of this “coming of age” wisdom. Here he tells Mary and Joseph “did you not know that I must be about my Father’s work?” (NASB, Luke 2:49, CCC, 534). The Gospels do not expand upon the hidden life of Jesus as he grew. The mentioning of Mary and Joseph losing Jesus and finding him in the temple is a significant turning point and demonstrates that unyielding devotion Jesus had to our redemption.
The Gospels really begin to tell the story of Jesus with the beginning of his public ministry and life. The baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan provides the opportunity for us to experience the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Jesus was without sin and did not need to be cleansed but he chose a path that would model the behavior he wanted us to follow. Through this act, Jesus is “submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to the baptism of death for the remission of our sins” (CCC, 536). Jesus’ act of being baptized offers us a path to him. It allows us to share in his life, death and resurrection and be washed free of our original sin and to sin no more through the act of contrition and remodeling our lives on more morally sound behaviors.
The Catechism elaborates on this by sharing “the Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him, be reborn of water and the Sprit so as to become the Father’s beloved son in the Son and ‘walk in newness of life’ (CCC, 537). We are afforded a second opportunity to say yes to God during our Sacrament of Confirmation. Too often, however, candidates for the Sacrament of Baptism or Confirmation don’t fully realize the gift Jesus bestows upon us. Just as Jesus grew in his wisdom as he aged, we, too must grow into a deeper understanding as we explore our humble origins in faith and live lives that are true to our Catholic beliefs and follow Jesus’ teaching; “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (NASB, John 13:34)
The Gospels also provide us insight into how human Jesus was. He was tempted by Satan during the forty days of solitude in the desert. Jesus fasted, avoiding food and drink and was sustained wholly by the angels who ministered to him. Jesus had to be tested and shown to resist the temptations of Satan so that we would understand there is a path of righteousness, which allows us to deny the Devil. The modeling behavior of Christ never ceases, even to this day. We are fortunate to have the Gospels and the words of Jesus to provide guidance when we are tested.
Jesus provides his Church with the governing criteria for continuing his mission when he chooses his twelve disciples representing the twelve tribes of Israel. He did not choose from among the best social class or the wealthiest. He chose men who were laborers. These men would be seen by many as kindred because they were no more privileged than the audience they were preaching to. Jesus took these men and systematically developed their understanding of the kingdom that awaited them. Like students of all ages, it took time for them to grasp the overwhelming concepts Jesus was placing before them. It wasn’t until Pentecost, that the disciples received the Holy Spirit and began to fully realize their role. Jesus, during his ministry taught the disciples “the kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to ‘preach the good news to the poor’” (CCC 544), After Pentecost, Jesus’ disciples become apostles and they are given the tools to go out among the poor and lowly and bring them into the fold.
Jesus gave his twelve apostles a share in his authority as he sent them on their mission to preach and heal in Jesus’ name. These men, led by Simon Peter, were the guardians of Christ’s Church.
Christ’s death and resurrection were required for those who would later follow to understand that this was a model to aspire to. It helps today to understand that our suffering and hardship offer us a key to the kingdom. We learn who Christ is through our own suffering. We learn to embrace Christ because of our hardships. We can turn to Jesus and ask for his help because he has experienced humanity and the pain associated with humanity.
Who better to relate to than men who had a humbling beginning themselves?
USCCB. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition. Washington, D.C. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2013 Print.
Senior, Donald, et al. Editors: The Catholic Study Bible, Second Edition New American Bible Revised Edition, New York: N.Y. Oxford Press, 2011 Print.