God in the Familiar

Jesus left Nazareth when he was about 30 years old to start his ministry. He traveled around Galilee preaching the kingdom of God, healing the sick and driving out demons. Soon his name became known all over the region and even beyond as an extraordinary teacher and wonder-worker. People sought him from everywhere to listen to his word and be cured of their illnesses.

In today’s gospel, we see Jesus returning to Nazareth. One would expect a hero’s welcome from his townsfolk who could only be proud that one of their own had become famous and put their little town on the map. Instead, Jesus received a different reception.

At first, his townmates listened to him as he preached in their synagogue. They were astonished at his eloquence and the power of his word. Soon their astonishment turned into resentment. “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!” They could not accept that he could rise above them when they knew only too well where he came from. “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary… and are not his sisters here with us?” In the end, they took offense at him and rejected him.

The reaction of the people of Nazareth is all too familiar in any community. Pride and envy can easily blind us to the goodness and giftedness of those who at a certain point move ahead of us in a journey we started together. This is because we fail to understand the meaning of gifts, and claim them as something personal. Gifts are given by God to all of us in different measure and modes for the building of the Body of Christ. Gifts are meant for the mission.

Familiarity can also blind us to the deeper reality in each of us. “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” Because they limited the origin and identity of Jesus only to what was familiar to them, they failed to recognize in him the Son of God. How often we stop short at the familiar face of our neighbour and fail to see in him/her the image and child of God, a brother/sister in Christ! (In like manner, over-familiarity with the word and the sacraments can also rob us priests of our sense of the sacred.}

As a result, familiarity deprives us of the joy of God’s presence. How we wish God would appear to us as he did with Abraham, Moses and the saints. Such apparitions, however, are not God’s usual way of revealing himself. God often visits to us in the ordinary: ordinary people and ordinary circumstances. Today’s gospel reveals the great mystery of incarnation in God taking on a human form and growing in an ordinary, unimportant out of the way town called Nazareth.

When we learn to recognize God more and more in the ordinary, the divine in the mundane, we become spiritually mature. The saints never stop wondering because they sense God’s mysterious presence all around them. As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins observed, “the world [indeed] is charged with the grandeur of God.”

God is Emmanuel. He is with us in all places and ways.

Secured By miniOrangeSecured By miniOrange