Inner strength is difficult to measure. It lies silently below some of our outer actions and words and can so surprise us. Inner strength has its own potency and is not always obvious. Sometimes it surprises us when we discover a strength that we did not know we possessed and at other times it conveys strength, inspiration and hope to others.
The Word given to us today reflects on inner strengths from different perspectives.
In the reading from Hebrews, the author encourages the Christian community to stand firm, to be strong and to rely on inner resources to stand firm against evil and sin. It is an appeal to one’s inner will and highlights the value of good practices which help to form good attitudes which in turn allow us to make good and consistent decisions.
By contrast our gospel highlights the inner power of Jesus – his wisdom and clarity of thought and speech. His words astonish his listeners. Perhaps we have had this experience too, when we meet someone who we know at one point of life, but who have been through their own journey of growth, or formation and education and how now possess new skills – skills we had not encountered before. We are often amazed and how someone has grown, matured and marvel at their progress.
For Jesus it seems this was certainly the case.
Perhaps too there is another lesson for us. The reaction to Jesus, from those who we might broadly label kinsfolk or at least, those who had known him since childhood, is most revealing. Their rejection of Jesus, someone they had known and cared about since youth, is determined by two dynamics. They seem unable to trust their own experience – obviously, they are moved and deeply impressed by Jesus words, but they do not allow this experience to have its own value in their world of meaning. They seek a more logical explanation, one that ‘fits’ more readily into their presumptions and worldview. They limit themselves by virtue of their own recourse to logic and familiarity. They trust an idea rather than listening to their inner world and they are the poorer for it.
Faith of its nature is not bound by logic and reason. Certainly, at times we need to explain and articulate our faith, but in its essence, it is a gift, often residing quietly and deeply within. It is from such a base that we listen to and absorb the words and message of Jesus – which of themselves and in their essence defy logic! Let it always be so.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.