Happy Friday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time!
The Gospel today (Matthew 13:54-58) tells of Jesus in his own hometown. The people said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is this not the son of a carpenter?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.” And so Jesus did not work mighty deeds there.
Where does a prophet have honor? Where is a prophet heard? Not among kin or in familiar surroundings; not among those who lack faith. God comes to us in the most unlikely forms and talks to us from the most absurd sources. Or perhaps is it just us who believe that the forms and sources God uses are unlikely and absurd?
The paradox we live and know is that to have faith, we must be familiar with Jesus. But the very stumbling block for the people in the Gospel is the necessary stepping-stone to hear Jesus’ word and accept him. It’s tough to live our faith in today’s society… Just think about the last time someone came to you and said “I’d like to take a few moments to talk to you about Jesus.” The fact is that if we take seriously our own commitment to live Gospel values, there will be times when we will be faced with misunderstanding, rejection, and ridicule.
All over the Bible, we see how God’s prophets faced rejection and resistance. And think about your own experiences – Spiritual or Secular – Have you and/or your ideas ever been rejected when you tried to change something for the better? How do you handle that rejection? And if we try, I’d wager we all can recall theologians, saints, scientists, doctors, or others who were rejected for their ideas. But what about today? Who are our modern prophets of today? They are met with rejection and hostility at every turn!
Do we dismiss the innocent yet authentic viewpoint of a young child? Or the experiential wisdom of the aging parent? What about the homeless, the gay, the black, the rich, the disabled, the convict? God made all of these people. Jesus, Godself, spent most of his time with tax collectors and sinners. Any one of these people, and more, can offer us the most intimate encounter with the Great & Holy One, and yet, more often than not, we deny the graces and contact with God, just because we judge the messenger “unworthy.”
God works with even these people, as “unworthy” as they might seem. And yes — God works with even us. We are called, you and I, to “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” No matter how hard or uncomfortable, we’re the Body of Christ in the world today.
Is it a challenge to “be the only bible some people will ever read?” YES!
Is it worth it? Well, I hear the retirement is out of this world.
Dear God, thank you for the gift of trusting us with your Word. Please help us to never grow weary of sharing your love with all those we meet… especially ourselves. And please grant us the grace to recognize you, and accept you, no matter the vessel you use to reach us. Amen.
Paul Puccinelli is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Rita Parish in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the retreat team at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center.