What's in a Name

It has become a tradition now for a group of IJ sisters and friends to meet in Ballyferriter for a summer retreat or workshop. This year, being the 350th anniversary of our first sisters choosing to live in Community, we decided to spend a week in a silent retreat deepening our Incarnational spirituality. The theme was borrowed from the title of a book, "Fully Human, Fully Divine”, by a Cistercian monk, Michael Casey. Most of us find it easy to accept that Jesus was Divine, the Incarnate Son of God. Our problem can be with the "incarnate” bit. Did he really feel tired, hungry, anxious, sad, tempted…Did he really grow in wisdom, knowledge and favour with God? We spent a large part of our week contemplating and reflecting on "Jesus of Nazareth”, the Man born into a definite culture, faith, geographical region, historical situation and precise period of history…all of which influenced Him profoundly, marked, formed and taught Him. To help us come to grips with this reality, we spent time thinking about the facts discovered by archeologists and biblical scholars, what life would have been like for a family in Nazareth at the beginning of the 1st century. We were helped especially by another well-researched book: "Jesus, A Historical Approximation” by J.A.Pagola. This helped us to look at the reality in which Jesus grew up as a child and young man, what his house may have looked like, what he might have eaten for his breakfast, what kind of clothes He would have worn, what kind of relationships existed between the family members, how He would have played, learned to pray or whether He went to school… growing up in Southern Galilee was not the same as being a native of the Northern region. The geographical features, land, work and contacts were different; so too were the religious, political and cultural aspects of life. Those who knew Jesus as "Jesus of Nazareth” knew what that implied. Some of the more sophisticated could judge sarcastically: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Even Jesus Himself did not find it a particularly open-minded placeand later "He went and settled in Capharnaum” by the coast road. We can tend to think of Jesus as "the carpenter” with our own image of a neat little workshop with a certain amount of equipment. Jesus’ working life was more likely, as scholars now believe, that of a day labourer, a craftsman (tekton) with several skills in wood, stone or metal which were needed in building houses or making whatever would be required in a rural area. He would probably have had to find work on a daily basis and perhaps walked with other men to and from the nearby Sepphoris, a city being rebuilt by Herod at the time, which gave work to people from the area. Then when Jesus decided to abandon all of this and become "an itinerant preacher” what might the implications have been, especially in the beginning?  Where might He have stayed? what would He have eaten? how would He have been welcomed?  What were the hardships involved? What did people think of the people He went around with? The women who followed Him? The kind of statements He was making and His strange way of acting? At a human level, how might Jesus have experienced all of that? Towards the end of our retreat, we reflected on the scriptures which tell us how this "Jesus of Nazareth” finally came to be recognised as "Lord and God” and on the wonderful fact that all of us are called to "divinization”. The Good News is that our transformation "from glory unto glory” passes through our own very real humanity.  Georgina Clarson IJS


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