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The Subjection of Jesus


“And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth and was subject to them.” 
Luke 2:51

1. He had finished this particular work which His Father had given Him to do. He had sanctified religious instruction; He had, in this simple event, provided for all time a proof that indeed He was more than man, that His discovery of Himself, as some modern critics would assert, was no gradual process, but that He knew Himself and His mission from the beginning; to go on from that moment teaching, to begin His public life at the age of twelve, would not have been in accordance with His fixed plan, of living the complete life of man, of bearing all man's burdens, of being “in all things like to man, sin alone excepted.” Most men must live out their lives in hiddenness and seclusion; then our Lord must let men see that He would do the same. He has left us a complete account of these eighteen years–eighteen years, let us reckon it in our own lives, is a long time–but He has left it complete in only two short sentences.

2. He went down to Nazareth, and was subject to them.” In this, then, there was no change of plan. He was still “about His Father's business”; that is the one consistent thread that runs through His whole life; the one and only claim He makes at the end when He cries: “Father, I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do.” But there is a change of another kind. “When I was a child,” says St. Paul of himself, “I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away the things of a child.” And the same is true of Jesus. Hitherto He had been subject to His parents, but now for the first time is it said that He “was subject to them.” And rightly, for the subjection of a child to its parents scarcely deserves that name; it is rather affectionate dependence. But when the child has grown up and still obeys; when the boy, the youth, the full-grown man still keeps his parents in the first place, considering them, serving them, working for them, then we have free obedience. And this we have from this time forward in our Lord; at the age of twelve He “put away the things of a child” but He “was subject to them” none the less.

3. We look into human hearts, we look through history, we look at the first disaster of all, and we ask ourselves the cause of all the misery, in individual souls, in the whole world. Detailed and detached causes are many; but the one great disorder underlies them all; it is that of insubordination, disobedience. Adam disobeyed and fell; mankind disobeys and falls; the nations bring themselves to grief by encouraging disobedience; however sweet the fruits of liberty, however noble the ideal of freedom, still the heart is a corrupted heart, and a source of hopeless misery, to itself and to all who come under its influence, which acknowledges no master, which obeys no law. Obedience is the bond of union, the source of strength, the safeguard of peace, the power in action, the tree that bears fruit both material and spiritual. But it is a hard lesson for independent human nature to learn; no wonder, then, that the Saviour of the world chose to teach it at such great expense.

Summary Meditation Points:

  1. Our Lord above all things wished to be “in all things like to man.”
  1. Hence, like man, He was subject; not only as a Child, but also of His own free choice.
  1. At this cost He taught the lesson that most needs to be learned, obedience.


Archbishop Alban Goodier SJ (Mirror View 1)Editor’s Note: This meditation is from Archbishop Alban Goodier’s “The Prince of Peace” (1913).


Art:  Icône de la Sainte Famille, basilique-cathédrale Notre-Dame de Québec [Icon of the Holy Family, Basilica Cathedral of Notre Dame, of Québec], author and date unknown, Jeangagnon, own work, 30 December 2013, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons. Mirror of Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J.,, all rights reserved, used with permission.
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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • NDaniels

    Thank you for these beautiful posts and website!

  • marybernadette

    “My questions are being answered, thank you and may God abundantly bless all of you in the ‘new year’ ahead!”

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