14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our reflection on the portion of the Gospel we have just listened to, highlights how difficult it is to be effective bringing the Christian message into the familiar territory of our own families, our local communities and to our society in general.
On one hand, we can be enthusiastic about sharing our faith with others, but then quickly react with our own disbelief when our well intentioned efforts are met with hostility.
On the other hand, we might look upon our faith as our own private affair and the only temptations we actively resist are when someone tries to change the way we see God or ourselves.
Both these scenarios make a dangerous presumption - that God is what we want him to be and does what we wish him to do. In other words, we can easily make God in our own image and likeness and paint Christ as we want him to be. We can hide behind him as our protector who fights our corner for us. Or we can look to him for inspiration as a gentle healer of the sick and compassionate to all. And of course, this he does, but not on our own terms.
But there is one line from the Gospel that we should not fail to notice and it deserves much of our attention, because it got a lot of attention from Christ himself. It was not how his own townspeople reacted to his words that astonished Christ.
Yes, they were impressed by his teaching - they were meant to be. Yes, they took notice of reports that he was a miracle-worker, and they should have noticed. And there would have been something wrong with them all if they did not know he was their local carpenter and had family among them. But there was one crucial element that got Christ's attention.
It was not how they saw him that was crucially important. It was what he saw in them, in his own people - what he might see in you and me. We are told in the Gospel that he is “amazed by their lack of faith”. So much so, that his healing ministry could not fully take root!
As we look out at the world and wonder, at times, how it has become so full of confusion, fear and anger - when we see and experience so many injuries that cry out in great need for healing, often the result of fear, prejudice and isolation, Christ is not amazed by our lack of knowledge. We have so much knowledge at our fingertips. Christ is, I would say, amazed by our lack of faith. When we presume we know how someone ticks, have all the answers to societies greatest issues, when we think we have it all figured out and know what we have to do, it is more easy to be filled with knowledge than it is with faith in God's grace.
So what do we do? Even though we can be very familiar with the words of the Scriptures and the prayers of the Mass, if we are to see Christ's gentle power to bring healing into our broken world and relationships, we must never allow ourselves to become complacent, bored or take him for granted. You can download a lot of information on an app and run a program, but you can't download God's grace and hit enter! We must, as the Psalm reminds us, always begin, not from the data base of knowledge, but from with "Our eyes fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy".
As case in point is St. Paul. He came to this lesson late in life. He grew up with a great and powerful knowledge of God. But God, amazed by his lack of faith, knocked him to the ground, and then only slowly, gently, planted the gift of faith deep within him. Sometimes it takes us to be knocked off our "high horse", to be bruised a bit so that, with St. Paul we can hear those words "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness".
Finally, there was one local townsperson who listened to Christ preach that day in his home town of Nazareth and did not have any lack of faith in him. God's grace was sufficient and perfect in her lowliness - Mary. Even though she knew him as her son, she always had faith in him as God and Savior of humanity, even when she stood underneath the Cross. St. Paul sums it all up for us when he reminds us "Therefore, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I and strong".