Tag Archives: Nazareth

Receiving a Prophet

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.”

Orlando Hernandez

The Holy Family


Luke 2,41-52

For most people, Christmas is over– the music’s stopped; Santa Claus is gone from the malls. The decorations are down and put away. It’s over.

But in church Christmas isn’t over. We’re still singing  carols and continue to celebrate as we think  about what it means when we say “our God was made visible.”

Today’s the feast of the Holy Family. The Word was made flesh, and as the child of Mary and Joseph Jesus was part of a family in the small town of Nazareth in  hills of  Galilee.

For one thing, families then were extended families or clans, living close together and working side by side. Archeological excavations in Nazareth and Capernaum (pictures below) make that clear. Families worked together in the fields or in  business, they ate together and moved together, as they still do in parts of the Middle East and elsewhere today.

holy familyCapernaumruinsDSC00062

It’s safe to say that nuclear families didn’t exist then. A nuclear family– mother, father and children– is a modern form of family life. Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus were not all by themselves in a small house in Nazareth. Rather, Jesus was raised in an extended family where  grandfathers and grandmothers, uncles, aunts and cousins lived together and were involved in bringing him up.

That doesn’t take away the part Mary and Joseph played in his upbringing, of course. They weren’t props, standing by while angels brought him up. Some of the apocryphal gospels – early stories about Jesus which the church rejected  – seem to say that.  One  story describes the Child Jesus forming  the figure of a bird from clay, then breathing on it, and instantly it becomes a living bird and flies away. Stories like that presented him exercising  miraculous powers as a child.

The church rejected those stories because they gave a  false picture of Jesus growing up. He “was subject” to Mary and Joseph, the gospel of Luke says. He grew up in their care as an ordinary child would.

Like mothers and fathers everywhere, they saw to his needs, they held him in their arms,  fed him, clothed him,  stayed up at night when he was sick. They taught him his first words,  guided his first steps,  nudged him along this way and that.

They  brought him to church–the synagogue, the temple–as we see in today’s gospel from Luke. They instructed him in his tradition. They taught him to pray,  interpreted events for him,  listened to his questions,  encouraged him over and over. They had their misunderstandings, as today’s gospel  indicates. In fact, they  influenced his life.

Yes, angels were there, but at a distance.  Mary and Joseph and that larger family and village around him raised the Child.

Today’s  feast of the Holy Family takes in the years of Jesus’ childhood and early adult life called his “Hidden Life.” His  years in that nondescript town among those ordinary people were truly hidden, yet were they less important than his Public Life, the few years he taught and did great miracles,  suffered and died and rose from the dead? In those hidden years “he humbled himself.”  A hidden life is important; it’s what mostly characterizes life in a family.

We need to think about family life today, because it’s in trouble.  For one thing, the nuclear family– father, mother, children– is  in trouble. I read some disturbing statistics recently. In every state in our country, families where children have two parents have declined significantly in the last 10 years. One of three children live in a home without a father. Almost 5 million children live in a home without a mother. A single mother may have an income of $24,000. Two parents are likely to have an income significantly greater.

What can we do? How can we help? Feasts  like the Holy Family focus our attention on important things.  They remind us what’s important in God’s eyes. The feast of the Holy Family focuses on the family. It’s important, it says.  At the same time, it tells us God’s grace will be ours when we work to make families go and when we support them all we can.  God points to family life today. It’s vitally important in our world.

The Wonder of Christmas

To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:

“I wonder as I wander out under the sky,

why Jesus, our Savior, was born for to die,

for poor, orn’ry people like you and like I

I wonder as I wander out under the sky.”

Wonder is a Christmas word;  we hear it in the carols we sing and in the words we hear and in the prayers we say.  Wonder is our reaction to something  beyond what we expect, beyond our experience and our understanding,  so big it leaves us lost for words.

We need wonder these days to lift up our minds and hearts.

Listen to the gospel story from St. Luke:

‘In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.” Caesar Augustus, the ruler of the world gives an order. “Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Quirinius , Caesar’s enforcer for Palestine, orders his jurisdiction to be counted. The mighty and the powerful of this world have spoken.

But the high and mighty, the politicians, the generals, the money people don’t impress Luke. Rather, his eyes are drawn to a couple in the multitude being enrolled,  a couple from an insignificant town in Galilee called Nazareth– Joseph and  his betrothed wife Mary, who was with child. They’re  on their way to Bethlehem.

“While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Luke goes on in his gospel to tell about this child born in Bethlehem, who grows up in Nazareth, who begins to preach and work marvels in Galilee, who gathers excited followers and then goes up to Jerusalem where he’s arrested, sentenced to death, crucified, then  raised from the dead. Luke goes on to describe the followers of Jesus who take his message to the ends of the earth and to us today.

That marvelous story begins in Bethlehem,  where a Child in swaddling clothes is laid in a manger, because there’s no room in the inn. That marvelous story goes on. It changes the way we look at ourselves and the world in which we live. God is quietly at work in our world, unnoticed, unacknowledges, God is with us.

There’s wonder in this story, a wondrous love’s behind it. This Child is God become like us, like “poor, orn’ry creatures like you and like I.” So unexpected, so beyond our experience and understanding, beyond words.

Today’s a day that calls us to wonder. Let’s not lose that gift that takes us beyond where we are. Begin with the world in which we live, the world around us as we “wander out under the sky.”  However difficult and dark this world can be, there’s a wonder to it. We’ve been gifted with the wonderful gift of life, which we carry in the flesh and blood that is ours, the gift of life we have in our families and our friends and all of those around us. Let’s not take them for granted.

Then, there’s the gift of God we remember today, a God not distant but close, a God not removed from our experience but sharing it, a God who loves us so much that he wishes to become one with us, a God who would die for us and bring us the promise of life that never ends. Let’s not take God for granted.

“I wonder as I wander out under the sky, why Jesus our Savior was born for to  die, for poor orn’ry people like you and like I. I wonder as I wander out under the sky.”

Monday, 3rd Week of Lent

Lent 1

Scholars say that the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus was the first story told by his disciples and the first story they wrote down. The other gospel stories were written down after it and point to it. Whatever gospel story we read–we’re reading about the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth  from Luke’s gospel today, for example–is part of the mystery of his death and resurrection.     

Luke  brings us  to Nazareth, where Jesus lived most of his life among “his own.” (Luke 4,24-30) As he begins  his ministry  he is rejected by ” his own”  in their synagogue. It was a rejection Jesus must have carried with him;  how could he forget it?

The crowds welcoming  him to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday call him “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee,”  but  few from Nazareth accompany him there.  Some women from Galilee  stand by his cross as he dies. Still, from what we know of Nazareth and its subsequent history, Jesus didn’t find much acceptance there. “He came to his own and his own received him not.”

The great Cross we see on Calvary draws attention to the physical sufferings of Jesus in his passion–the scourging, the thorns, the crucifixion. But let’s not forget his interior sufferings, especially the increasing rejection he experienced from “his own,” from those who knew him from the beginning and those who follow him into Jerusalem.

The lenten gospels prepare us to share in the great mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We may never share in his physical sufferings, but rejection by “our own,”  maybe someone close to us, will always be one of the ways we share in the sufferings of Jesus. At the same time let’s not forget that rejecting “our own”  brings suffering to others.

Nazareth where Jesus was rejected is not far from the people and the places where we live.


help me  face the slights the come from those close by,

from my Nazareth, from “my own.”

The mystery of your Cross is not played out on Calvary alone,

It’s played out in the places and people close by,

where we live now.

Give me the grace to live in my Nazareth

as you did in yours.

I ask this grace through Jesus Christ.


4th Sunday C Help Us Lord to Believe


To listen to today’s homily, select the audio file below:

For two Sunday’s we have been reading the long account from St. Luke’s gospel of Jesus’ return to Nazareth, his hometown, as he begins his ministry in Galilee. I mentioned last week Luke’s interest in Jesus’ early life. More than any other evangelist, he writes about Jesus early years.

The four gospels take a dim view of Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus Christ. Early in his gospel, John says that Philip, one of Jesus’ first disciples,  invited Nathaniel to meet “Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathaniel replies. (John 1,46).

 The gospels of Mathew and Mark  recall the sad rejection of Jesus by his hometown after his baptism by John the Baptist.  Matthew places it after Jesus has spoken to a large crowd in parables. Then, he goes to Nazareth and speaks in the synagogue to his own townspeople, who are at first astonished at his wisdom, but they wonder where did “the carpenter’s son” get all this. They know his mother and his family, and they reject him. (Matthew 13,54-58)

Mark’s gospel puts the event after Jesus has raised a little girl from the dead. Going to Nazareth with his disciples, he’s greeted in the synagogue with astonishment because of his wisdom; they’ve heard of his mighty deeds, but then they ask where did this “carpenter” get all of this? He’s “Mary’s son” and they know his family. Jesus “was amazed at their lack of faith.”    (Mark 6,1-5)

In Luke’s gospel Jesus goes into the synagogue at Nazareth almost immediately after his baptism and reads from the Prophet Isaiah the passage: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; He has anointed me…” Jesus says he’s fulfilling the words of the prophet. He’s the Messiah.

In the reading today the people of Nazareth not only reject him but try to put him to death. They are people who have known him all his life, we presume even members of his family are among them.

Here is a concrete example of what’s said in another gospel: “He came to his own and his own received him not.” Of course, their reaction surprises us. How could they be so blind? How could they not see?

Our first reading today may offer some insight into their reaction. It’s about the Prophet Jeremiah who also met opposition from his own people and was put to death for his claims. Maybe he can help us understand what happened at Nazareth?

The prophet speaks for God. “Stand up and tell them what I command you,” God says to Jeremiah, “I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” But when God first calls him, Jeremiah shrinks from the task. ” Don’t send me, I’m just a child.” They know me too well; I
I don’t have the status, the aura of a prophet.

That seems to be what happened at Nazareth. They knew Jesus too well. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” They doubt, they want more proof. “The prophet is honored, except in his native place,” Jesus says,amazed at their unbelief.

The prophet speaks for God, but what God says through the prophet may not be to our liking. Sometimes it seems too good to be true. We’re cynical people. We think like human beings, not like God. Would God promise us a life beyond death, beyond suffering, beyond disappointment, beyond failure. Could God be the carpenter’s son? Could it be true,as the Letter to the Hebrews says, “In times past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets,but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son.” (Hebrews 1, 1-2) Could God so love the world that he would send his Son to bring us life?

Let’s not be too harsh with the people of Nazareth. When we are looking at them, we are looking at ourselves.

Let’s ask for faith, faith like Mary his mother had. Let’s ask that we listen to his words and believe in his promises. Let’s ask that we follow Jesus Christ in the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection, till he reveal himself to us and we share in his glory. Help us, Lord, to believe in you.

3rd and 4th Sunday C; His Own Turn Against Him

Audio homily here:

Luke begins his account of Jesus’ public life by recalling his return to Nazareth after his baptism by John in the Jordan. This Sunday and next Sunday we read from Luke’s long account of that event.

Mark and Matthew tell this story later in their gospels, but Luke, who concentrates more on Jesus’ early life than the other evangelists, puts the beginning of Jesus’  public life in Nazareth, in the synagogue where he worshipped, among those who knew him best. (Luke 4, 14-21)

Luke paints the coming of Jesus into this world in broad, sweeping terms in his gospel. Caesar Augustus was the world’s ruler, Herod ruled in Palestine, others ruled under them. At the same time, he focuses on Jesus’ own personal history. Born in Bethlehem, Jesus’ first home is an obscure village in northern Galilee– Nazareth, where he grows “in wisdom and age and grace, before God and man.” There he was brought up.

The synagogue at Nazareth was probably like other synagogues in the towns of Galilee. Some, like that at Magdala on the Sea of Galilee, have been excavated in recent times. It was a small one story rectangular building, with two tiers of seating all around its walls, made for a town of no more than 500 people. In the middle of the synagogue was a stand holding copies of the various books of the scriptures. The synagogue was the center of life in those towns.

Jesus has returned to Nazareth after beginning his ministry “all through Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and praised by all. (Luke 4, 14-15) Now, back home, he goes into the synagogue on the Sabbath, “as he was accustomed to do.”

He gets up from his place to read the scriptures. (From the same place where he sat for years? Was Mary his mother there with him?) He’s “ handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,

and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.

He said to them,

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

A short sermon, and a powerful statement. “This scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Jesus says. I’m anointed to bring glad tiding to the poor. Jesus claims a messianic calling.

His neighbors, who have known him for years, are first impressed, then question him, then deny his claims, then threaten to put him to death.

In their gospels, Mark and Matthew describe opposition to Jesus coming first from the scribes and Pharisees, the leaders from Jerusalem, but Luke sees opposition to Jesus coming first from his own hometown, from family, neighbors and friends. He knows how important this rejection is.

It’s true, isn’t it? When we enter this world, we enter the small unit of human life, a family, and beyond the family, the people and places that shape us early in life. We’re subject to this important smallness, our “Nazareths” where we grow “in wisdom and grace.” We’re first nourished there; we look for lasting love and support there. It means so much to us.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus will know opposition. Leaders of the people, public officials will oppose him.  In his final days, his own disciples will abandon him. Only a few will stand by his cross. The physical sufferings he endured were great. He was scourged, his head was crowned with thorns, his hands were nailed to a cross, he died hanging there long hours alone.

But rejection from his own at Nazareth will weigh heavily on him. It was a big part of the mystery of his cross. “He was amazed at their unbelief.” Yet, Jesus who embraced humanity with love, embraced Nazareth too. He loved it with God’s great love.

We have to pay a lot of attention to where we’re born, where we’re brought up, our families, the people we live and work with. Nazareth is important to us.


Mary, Mother of Mercy

“Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope.” Why is Mary called “mother of mercy?” First of all, because she acknowledged she had received the mercy of God which, like the oil poured on kings and priests, gave her power “to fulfill what is beyond human capabilities.” (Anthony Bloom)

Her cousin Elizabeth declared her “blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Mary’s responded: ‘The Lord who is mighty has done great things to me, holy is his name.” She knew God’s mercy was a work in her to restore the human race. (Luke 1, 43-48)

How, then, was Mary merciful? How did she fulfill what Jesus taught “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful?” How did she live a merciful life? How did she do those works of mercy that tradition ascribes to the merciful person:
• Feed the hungry
• Give drink to the thirsty
• Clothe the naked
• Shelter the homeless
• Visit the sick
• Visit the imprisoned
• Bury the dead

• Admonish the sinner
• Instruct the ignorant
Comfort the sorrowful
Bear wrongs patiently
• Forgive all injuries
• Pray for the living and the dead

We might say we don’t know whether Mary did these things or not; the scriptures hardly say anything about her and her life. But the scriptures say a great deal about her Son. Does he not reflect his mother Mary and Joseph, the man who brought him up? The mystery of the Incarnation tells us he did. From him, then, we know what Mary was like.