Grace to You
We read from the Gospel of Mathew 13:54-58 that the Lord came to his native place of Nazareth. He was not welcome, as he was when in other territories. One could notice that the Lord did not visit Nazareth that often, not more than two times during his public ministry, based on what is documented in the Gospels. This was the town where he was raised and worked with his stepfather, Joseph, who was a carpenter.
The Lord is called the Nazarene, so he was, for that was his home town. One would expect he would ingrain himself in that community and become a local hero. He didn’t.
As an itinerant concerned with the Heavenly Father's work and continuing to do good, he went from place to place, planting the seed of his saving grace. Before we look at the unbelief of Jesus' town people, there is a subtle but crucial lesson in the Lord's way of ministering we could glean.
By not making his mission the Nazarene mission, the Lord showed his universal mission even in his own life. I don't think it was an accident that he spent less time in his hometown. He was born in a place, but he didn't come just for that place. It is an important lesson for those involved in the work of ministry.
Being actively involved in our hometown is a good thing. One has to build one's community. However, when faith life is so domesticated that it becomes our hometown affair, there is a risk of corrupting the Gospel to being that of our class or territory. If, as believers, we do not think beyond our home, race, or a particular culture, we may be allowing the seed of spiritual tribalism in our soul. I have hinted at this message in the previous week. The Lord's example here emphasizes this crucial lesson.
One's mission as a minister flourishes when one sees it beyond one's immediate family or town. For those with a unique call to serve the Gospel, openness and commitments to where the needs are the most serve a higher cause than settling in our safe haven. We look for those opportunities to sow the seed to willing hearts, not simply to harness it for our people.
There is an indirect lesson from this to parish priests too. Sometimes, we think so territorially that we miss the point of the universal mission of Christ we have been called to serve. We protect our parish and are bound to our parish. It is a good thing to protect one's congregation. Although it is presumptuous to assume, we can do so when it is God who can.
Nevertheless, the substantial bad side is narcissistic protectionism. It is not allowing the parish to live beyond us. Not allowing the Church to thrive from the gifts and talents outside of our communities could be a spiritual bottleneck.
Concerning the lack of openness of the Nazarenes who questioned the Lord's credibility because he didn't have scholarly or class credentials, there is this lesson to draw. One's class or educational certificates do not equal knowledge or wisdom. The dumbest things ever proposed in human history came from the so-called elite class and scholars. An example would be the cult of celebrities who, due to having large platforms, often promote the dumbest ideas. In contrast, the humble souls live their normal life and show God's incredible wisdom in their day-to-day activities.
The ordinary-looking life of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, was not what his town people would expect of the messiah. Just like the subtle workings of the wisdom of the Gospel in humble hearts is the sharp contrast of the bravado of celebrities, academic demagogues, and boastful elites.
Yet, the wisdom of God is revealed in that humble heart. Mother Mary is an undoubted testimony. She testified: "God has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48).
Approach God with humble hearts. Never discredit the Gospel because of who said it or due to how less elite they may be. Grace is abundant in the ordinary.
I pray for the grace of humble openness to the Gospel. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu.
[Friday, Week 17, Ordinary Time: Jeremiah 26:1-9; Matthew 13:54-58]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.