August 4, 2017
Gospel Mt 13:54-58
Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
"Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter's son?
Is not his mother named Mary
and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
Are not his sisters all with us?
Where did this man get all this?"
And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them,
"A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and in his own house."
And he did not work many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.
The gospel passages today strikes me because our family has moved back to my husband's "native place." We are living in his hometown, a small town in lake country, Minnesota, with his dad, stepmom and half-sister in the house he lived in in high school. It has been tough to get into our own routine amidst the larger, more established routine of the rest of the family living in this house, and so, I've struggled feeling sluggish and in limbo before we move into our apartment in September. I bring up this situation because the concept of the "native place" is one that sparks feelings of both comfort in being known, but also, the apathy of being too comfortable with what you know of yourself, and as we see in the gospel reading, others being too comfortable and unwilling to bend in what they know of you.
The people in the synagogue in today's reading exemplify how a comfortable knowledge of Jesus, which may be the result of quite a long relationship with Him, can sometimes be the biggest barrier to deeper relationship. We may be stuck in our own "native place" in our relationship with Jesus, keeping what He means to us within a well-confined box that does not exceed the bounds of our comfort. But this attitude of "knowing" is actually a farce, protecting us from admitting our own pride and fear that inhibit us from truly knowing Jesus.
Pride, because we think we have "enough" knowledge of God, thank you very much. "I go to Mass on Sundays, I pray before meals, I don't live a crazy life." We may be satisfied knowing we are "not as bad" as others, we may be under the impression that we don't have to try living as disciples because we are already "saved" anyways.
Fear, because what if we have to give up this view of ourselves? What if God wants us to... change? What if God isn't just a therapeutic concept for me to feel better? What if I'm not as good as I actually think I am... because God is actually far more Good than I think He is?
Yes, these are the sinful attitudes that can be buried so deep within us, that can cement us so deeply within our own "native places." (And yes, I'm being a little harsh here in my wording of these attitudes! Please forgive me. Sinful tendencies are harsh.) These are the attitudes that can keep Jesus from working "mighty deeds" in our lives. Is our faith lacking? Specifically, is our faith in Jesus' ability to continually reveal more and more of Himself to us lacking? Are we stuck in what we know of Jesus, or are we ready to move forward from our "native place"? Are we ready to sojourn with Jesus as disciples on pilgrimage, knowing that deeper and deeper knowledge of Jesus IS the supreme goal of our lives?
The people in this gospel resisted Christ because they believed they knew who He was more than He knew who He was. They were so set in their view of Him that they even "took offense at him" when He taught them: this is also a crucial detail, and one I can relate to more than I'd like to admit, due to my own pride and fear.
*Personal example time* I can very often get quickly offended (which usually includes being defensive, too. Gotta cover all angles of resistance) when my husband tries to point out ways I could grow. And this is often due to a more general lack of faith in his ability and role in him being a teacher in my life. I have my own idea of what I want my husband to be, and more often than not, I want him to be an unconditional supporter of me. And he is, except it's easier for me when that "unconditional" means regardless of whether I'm becoming who I want to be in life... It's here that I find the futility of my own attitude: Why resist when resisting means being stuck in a less joyful life, in a more shallow relationship? Hopefully, we learn (and I will learn) quickly that keeping one's pride at the cost of deeper relationship is a farce.
The solution? Humility. We must let Jesus, and others who are His instruments in our lives, continually teach us Who He is and who we ought to be, because the latter is hopeless without the former. We must venture out of our "native place" of stagnant knowledge of Him, and move towards the freedom of a journey where we know not where we're going, but we know Who is leading us.