Jesus' public ministry began at the age of 30. Today, Rozann Carter comments on the significance of that milestone age, as well as the importance of spiritual preparation in the years leading up to it.
My brother turns 30 today.
As I thought about how to commemorate this great milestone in his life, I was reminded of the fact that Jesus began his public ministry around the time that he turned 30 (Luke 3:23). At age 30, he “officially” entered into the public sphere, preaching, teaching, healing, working miracles, and inadvertently making himself a target for opposition from the resistant culture to whom he ministered. It was the beginning of his road to Calvary and the fulfillment of his “mission” here on earth, the coming to fruition of the Incarnation. At 30, he took leave from his mother and father and did what needed to be done…to achieve the salvation of the world. But, as I thought about this in terms of my brother (and that quickly approaching birthday for myself and a good portion of my friends) I wondered about the significance of that year. Why 30? Perhaps more importantly, though, I wondered what Jesus was doing from age 1-29 and what that means for each of us.
There is no doubt that 30 is a rite of passage, whether dreaded or celebrated. The 30th year is touted to be a landmark, a new decade, the year when adulthood really begins, when the infamous 20’s come to a close and reasons for immaturity begin to be viewed as excuses. For most of us, it is understood as the point at which youth, as a title, fades away and real life takes its place-- a projected date in the future wherein we must begin the task of actualizing responsibility.
All too often, this “future tense” mindset creates tremendous problems for the present. Our cultural disposition leads us into thinking that the right course of action in the years leading up to 30 is to “live it up,” because responsibility is imminent. How often the phrase, “…while I’m young!” is used as an excuse to prolong an adolescent hiatus. Hiatus from what? From a participation in the common good; from becoming the best versions of ourselves by living in service to others. Instead, we often seek to become the most-well-traveled, most-experienced, thoroughly-entertained versions of ourselves in service to ourselves before we aren’t “allowed to” anymore.
No doubt this same mentality seeps into our spiritual lives. We tend to see formation in virtue as an end in itself, as a “condition” or “reality” for a later date, when we settle down with a family, when someone is dependent on us, when we have made the necessary mistakes of our youth, etc. Therefore, we lose the gift of these valuable years of preparation. Who does this affect? It affects us secondarily, but it affects others most profoundly. Preparation is, in fact, never truly about us. It is about Christ, and it expresses itself through our relationships with others.
On this note, C.S. Lewis, in this often-quoted segment of Weight of Glory stated:
“It may be possible for each of us to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden, of my neighbour's glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet if at all only in a nightmare.
All day long we are in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities it is with awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal, Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations, these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit -- immortal horrors or ever lasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously--no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinners--no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat, the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”
So, the actual age, it seems, is of nominal importance. Jesus’ “30” could be your “14” or your “65”. No matter the age we are when God calls us to fulfill the particular mission he has set for us as his disciples, our humble preparation consists in diligent service, great or small—trusting at every moment that we are, as St. Therese says, “exactly where we are meant to be.” The greatest possible reverence for the plight of our neighbor, as Lewis so beautifully articulates, becomes the greatest possible preparation for our own individual plight. Jesus, no doubt, having emptied himself into human form, was the epitome of this humble service, even if only expressed within the workshop of his carpenter father for 29 years.
As we look at our lives, our own milestones, and the birthdays that have come and gone, let the fruit of our preparation be less about ourselves and our goal-oriented futures and more about Christ as presented to our senses in every interaction, every day.
And, Happy Birthday, Chase.
Rozann Carter is a Production Assistant at Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.