Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
Lessons from the events of Epiphany
Excerpt from my soon to be published book, Becoming Jesus
By Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
January 5, 2015

The truth be told, none of us knows the consequences of his beliefs and decisions. Mary and Joseph were not aware of the trials they would face together in the days and years ahead, having and caring for a son who in their case was the Son of God. They did not consider the adverse consequences as God bid them to have and raise a child as God bids all married spouses.

Near the time of Mary's delivery of her son, Tiberius Caesar Augustus requires a census of Israel and Joseph takes his pregnant wife to his ancestral town of Bethlehem to be registered. Not finding suitable lodging Joseph is relieved that they at least find a place with a roof over their heads. Mary's labored breathing increases as they settle in, alone by themselves, they thought, in a stable for a home. The arrival of visitors, noblemen from a foreign country in the East, was unexpected. They came in all their regal attire and give homage to their son as the "king of the Jews" and later local shepherds also come and praise God " for the "good news" revealed to them by an angel, "to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2: 10-12).

Soon after Jesus is born Joseph learns in a dream that Jesus' life is in imminent danger, the second of many tests Mary and Joseph would endure concerning their son. King Herod who had dispatched three of his own sons and his wife felt threatened by a child who "would be born King of the Jews" whom noblemen from the East were seeking as foretold in their ancient writings. In the dark of night Joseph, Mary and their newborn child, Jesus, flee Israel and journey to Egypt hoping they can find safety in an unknown country out of reach of a crazed despot. It is not known how long and difficult a journey they had, unprepared and with a infant child to care for. How provident that noblemen from the East following a star found Jesus in Bethlehem and left him gold and other precious gifts. These wise men from the East had journeyed far to see the newborn king. Joseph, Mary and Jesus would travel far to another country from danger in their own nation and would pay their way for food, shelter and a new home in Egypt with the gifts of gold and precious herbs they received. Joseph, Mary and Jesus remained in Egypt approximately two years until the death of King Herod of Judea. (Luke 2:13-15). Mary knew first hand that Simeon's prophesy was true when he had told her in the temple of Jerusalem that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction for many, and this was one of many dangers they would face. After Herod's death Israel was divided by the Roman Emperor into three parts among Herod's surviving sons. With news of Herod's death Joseph decides not to return to Bethlehem where all the children of Jesus' age were slaughtered to assuage the insecurity of a jealous king. Joseph instead takes his family to a small, relatively new town, Nazareth, in the distant province of Galilee up in the hills away from the well traveled roads around Lake Galilee. Joseph, Mary and Jesus adapted their lives to their new surroundings first in Egypt and then in Nazareth. As a carpenter Joseph could have supported his family more comfortably in Jerusalem or in a town near the capital city. Residing in Jerusalem or nearby Bethany would have made their lives less arduous and have provided Joseph more work as a tradesman. They could attend the high holy days at the temple in Jerusalem for Passover, the Feast of the Tabernacles and Pentecost with less difficulty traveling by foot seventy miles to Jerusalem from their remote home in Nazareth. How would she and Joseph, Mary thought, raise the Messiah, the holy Son of God in Nazareth?

As Jesus advances "before God and man" Mary and Joseph see Jesus' grow from childhood and adolescence to an adult from the day Jesus declares that he "must be about my Father's business." On that day when returning from their annual trip in Jerusalem for Passover Joseph and Mary lose their boy and are "astonished" finding Jesus "sitting among the teachers" in the temple and "listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers." Mary was unprepared as many mothers are discovering that her child had grown into manhood and asks Jesus, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously looking for you." (Luke 2:41-52). Mary understands then how much Jesus has advanced and how much he had learned from her. Mary in her humility, a "lowly servant," remembered that God had "come to the help of his servant Israel for he had remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever." Her Magnificat changed the course of history. She chose 'God's ways' rather than man's ways. (Luke 1: 49-55).

© Fr. Tom Bartolomeo


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Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

I am the founder and director of the Families For Families Retreat House, a refuge for anyone who wants to rethink his or her life in a quiet non-demanding environment in an historic house c.1709 when life was less complicated. I am also and primarily a Catholic priest having been a college and university teacher, business-owner and executive among other things. I received my Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English literature from Saint John's University, Jamaica, New York and completed post-graduate studies at Kansas State University. Contact me at (Fr. Bartolomeo passed away on September 18, 2018. His obituary can be found here.)


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