John: Was Jesus a quarrelsome boy, Mary?
Mary: A quarrelsome boy?… More than the horses of Nebuchad¬nezzar…. Thank God! He was always restless…. Joseph used to say that he was made of lizards’ tails….
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…
Mary: A 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 cucumber….
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…
Mary: There 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….
A Cousin: I want some milk, Aunt Mary!
Another 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!!
Another Cousin: And I want an egg!
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, c’mon….
Jesus: Right away, Mama. C’mon, Mocho…!
A Neighbor: How’s everything, Mary?
Mary: Well, God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb…. That’s it…
Mary: At 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…!
Mary: Jesus 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…!
A Playmate: Only 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 will see!
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 the winner….
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!…
Jesus: Mama, what’s the food?
Mary: The usual stuff. Lentils and… my God, Jesus, where’ve you been?
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!
Mary: We 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, chicken!
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….
Mary: There 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 they bark!
Mary: Jesus 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?
A 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!
A Boy: Jesus can’t read! He can’t read!
Jesus: Neither can you!
Rabbi: Silence boys!
Mary: The 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 house….
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 field….
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 Nazareth!
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.
The 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.
In 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….
The 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.
Jesus 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.
The 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.
The 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.
(Lk 2:39-40 and 51-52)