Familiarity

Today’s Gospel[1] brings to mind many insights.  But, today, I can’t help but think about a more human aspect; one that directly affects our ability to appreciate our Lord; one that affects our being able to interiorize His message; and because of it can damage society.

In the Gospel today we see Christ enter His own country – the place where He was raised. He had already begun to proclaim the gospel and back His words up with miracles; and now He comes home to do the same.  But the people were of another frame of mind: ‘many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.[2]

They knew Him; many knew Him well. They grew up with Jesus the boy so they couldn’t see or accept the greatness because of the familiarity.  They couldn’t recognize wisdom coming from just another one of them.  They couldn’t elevate past the immanent to the transcendent – the ordinary to the sublime.  They were numb to the importance of Jesus – many were extremely annoyed.

So, as I reflected on this scene I had to ask myself and now all of us – have we done the same? Have we, faithful followers who live a life of prayer and adoration of God, missed the greatness and newness of His message.  Though in an abstract sense, it is easy to gauge the receptivity of God’s message by whether we live the radical life of Christ and His apostles or not. It is hard to apply that metric to ourselves – we are great deniers and sophists.

At least for me, I can see that I have missed the mark in recognizing the importance of this one person I supposedly know so well.  As I take a deep look I fear that my life is not one of surrender to God; I have failed to truly live the radical life that Christ calls His followers to. I sit back and review my inaction in the public discourse when I should have gone forth as the apostles did and proclaim the good news.  I sit back and notice the times I came up with easy justifications for not standing in the public square and discuss a better way, a better idea.  I can see those times that I didn’t practice in public what I believe in my heart.  I can see the damage done by wallowing in the comfort of inaction by looking at the bad decisions made by public figures that might not have been made by them if only I (and every other catholic) had exercised my calling as a Catholic apostle; and my obligation and right as a U.S. citizen to engage in the great public discourse.

This current round of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court has shown what happens when we don’t continually live a life centered in Christ and participate in the public dialog.  The ramifications of the decision concerning marriage haven’t even started to appear – but dark clouds are starting to form. The dark clouds on the horizon are not figments of unrealistic minds, no matter what Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority decision to assure us otherwise.  As was the decision absurd, so was his statement within it assuring us of religious protection[3].  This reflection is not the place to dissect the future. But we now have seen painfully, once again, what happens when we don’t live a life totally centered on Christ; when we view our faith as so familiar that we don’t understand Christ’s message and our responsibilities.

At the end of today’s Gospel we see just what we have just reflected on. Jesus was so affected that: ‘he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them.[4] – Christ’s effectiveness was limited by the receptivity of those He ministered to and with. Brothers and sisters let’s not make the same mistake over and over again of allowing our closeness with Christ to cloud our view of the message He gives us. Let’s not withdraw to a familiar and comfortable hole of interiorized faith. The world will be a sicker place if do.

———————————————————————

[1] Mk 6:1-6
[2] Mk 6:2b-3 (RSV)
[3] Obergefell v. Hodges majority opinion. ‘The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage.’ Needless to say, this statement is glaring in its complete omission of what the First Amendment guarantees: the freedom to exercise religion.
[4] Mk 6:5 (RSV)

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