Do you ever wonder what Jesus was like as a kid? I do.
I wonder if he walked around in flowing robes blessing people. If Mary and Joseph ever ran out of food, did Jesus just miracle up all the wine and fish and bread he wanted? When one of his buddies hurt himself in the playground, did Jesus touch and heal the sore? And in school, when asked a question, did he answer in eloquent and perfectly crafted parables?
Or, I wonder if he was the Class Clown, like me?
I imagine Jesus had to learn to walk, like the rest of us. He probably made mistakes growing up. Maybe he lost some friends, and even had to deal with human emotions and fears. I can hardly begin to understand what he must have had to process as he himself began to understand who he was, and what he could do, and what he was going to have to do.
He must have had a hard time accepting who he was, and his mission.
The Gospel has Jesus in his hometown, revealing himself to the people who know him best. They’ve seen him grow from that little guy learning to walk and making mistakes, and now he’s calling himself a prophet and teaching in the synagogue with great wisdom and might! The people in his city, his neighbors, know him as the kid down the block… just an ordinary carpenter, and yet he teaches in the synagogue as one with learning and power. He could not possibly, in their eyes, be a prophet. Their lack of faith, though, limits his ability to perform any “mighty deeds” that reveal the presence of God’s kingdom in their midst.
I’ll bet they had a hard time accepting who he said he was, and his mission.
The people in today’s Gospel were a lot like me. Here is the Son of God himself, standing right in front of them, talking to them. God comes to heal the sick, bring sight to the blind, shower peace and love to all people, share the message of Eternal Life, and these folk were just too closed to see him at work in their lives. In fact they were so angry, they refused to let him do any mighty deed there, tying the hands of God, refusing all the love and grace Jesus offers!
There’s quite a foreshadowing of Jesus’ end of life in today’s Gospel. It begins with people praising him and being amazed at his speaking and depth, but ends with them taking offense at him. First loved and accepted, but then pushed away. It’s like those who praised Jesus on Palm Sunday, and became the same people that would scream “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
And yet, even fully knowing what would happen, God still pursued us. He sent his Son as one of us to reach out, to call us home, even though he knew we would tie his hands and turn our backs on all the healing and love he has to offer.
Such love. Such amazing love… to hold out a hand of care and forgiveness, even though those very people would slam a spike through it.
Pursuit. Chase after. Hound. Dig for. Leave no stone unturned. Do whatever it takes.
How has God pursued you?
How have you turned your back on Jesus?
What was it that led you to finally accept God’s hand reaching out to you, waiting for you?
And, how have you been God’s hands, reaching out to others?
God waits for us. Jesus is right here, in our midst. The signs and messages are always there… if only we could be open enough to recognize him.
The refrain of a pop song, which was recorded by the artist Richard Marx, titled “Right Here Waiting,” says it pretty well.
Wherever you go, whatever you do,
I will be right here waiting for you.
What a perfect description of God. All we have to do look, listen, and be God’s beloved.
Dear God, thank you for the gift of your most amazing and ever available presence. Please grant us the grace to always open the door and let you in. Amen.
Paul Puccinelli is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Rita Parish in Sierra Madre, CA, and a member of the Retreat-Team at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center.