In today’s Gospel we read about Jesus’ return to “His native place,” and the reception He got from His peers when He began to teach them. They found it hard to take Him seriously, asking,
“Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”
Why such a reaction? Why were they not proud of their hometown boy? We’re they jealous of Him? Did they believe that a humble carpenter’s son had no right to teach about the divine? Were they startled because He no longer acted like a “regular guy”, one of them?
When I started testifying about my newfound faith at men’s retreats and at prayer groups, some people would come up to me and thank me for helping them in their search for healing, and for God, while others treated me like I was just some upstart who didn’t know anything! Well, I guess one of the lessons of this Gospel is that you just can’t please everybody, especially if they’re your friends and relatives .
After my conversion, many of them could not believe that I was for real. One of my drinking buddies winked at me and said, ” You gotta be kidding! Common, have fun. You only live once.” Another said, “Hey, don’t turn into a religious fanatic! That’s not the guy I know! What about that temper?”
A nice cousin of mine said, “You’re dedicating your life to God now that you’re retired? That’s a nice hobby. I guess you gotta do something with your free time.”
A very intelligent, cynical, clever friend would use her language skills to prove me wrong, and justify her way of thinking and acting towards others. I was no match for her smart talk. But another fiercely atheist friend synthesized the feelings of all the others:” Don’t come preaching to me! I don’t want to hear anything about God! If you’re my friend, let’s talk about anything but that!”
Like Jesus, I was ” amazed at their lack of faith!” I certainly wasn’t able to perform any “mighty deeds” there, except perhaps keep my composure, shake my head, and smile. I really love these persons. I guess the best I can do is show them this, knowing how much greater than mine is the love that our Lord Jesus has for them.
If they ask me I will tell them about the peace I feel in my heart. Maybe I’ll be able to show them how I have changed, even if a little, perhaps reflect the words of the scholar of mythology, Joseph Campbell: ” Preachers err by trying to talk people into belief, better they reveal the radiance of their own discoveries.”
My spiritual director, Fr John Powers C.P., once wrote, ” I begin the telling of my tale with the assumption that my story is, in some measure, everyone’s story.”