Friday, August 2, 2013




The gospel reading for today (Friday) is the story of Jesus’ not very successful return to his native village of Nazareth:

Nazareth today
Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
“Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter’s son?
Is not his mother named Mary
and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
Are not his sisters all with us?
Where did this man get all this?”
And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and in his own house.”
And he did not work many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith. (Mt 13:54-58)

Nazareth, scholars tell us, was not tiny, but it was still a village; and in those days in that part of the world, everyone in a town that size would have know everyone else. That’s both the good news and the bad news. Of course it’s great to live with neighbors who know you pretty well, but in the reading we see the down side as well: When you think you know someone well you tend to take them for granted and even feel you have the right to write them off.
The villagers said among themselves: “We know this Jesus, he’s the son of Joseph the carpenter; we’ve known him his whole life.” And, Matthew tells us, “they took offense at him.” The Greeks says “They were scandalized by him.” A skandalon is a stumbling block. Their supposed familiarity with Jesus became a stumbling block that tripped them up so that they could not understand his words clearly nor see the wonders he was performing. 
I was thinking today that right now I’m living in a little village here in the middle of Newark; 12 monks, 575 students (we started school on Monday) and, say sixty faculty and staff. The question is: Do I have the same problem as those villagers in Nazareth? Let’s call it “villagers’ vision.” Do I tend to write people off because I’ve known them so long and I think I know them so well? What an awful thing to do to someone, especially to a brother!

There’s a prayer that goes something like, “God, grant me the grace to see myself as others see me.” Well, to counter my own “villagers’ vision” I tried a revised version of this prayer:  “God, grant me the grace to see my brothers as YOU see them.”


What would have happened if the villagers of Nazareth had been granted the grace to see Jesus as His heavenly Father saw Him? How differently would they have listened to Jesus! What a joyful welcome and what awestruck attention would they have given to this Person whom they saw was the Son of God.
Let's face it, when you’ve lived with someone for forty or fifty years you figure that you know them, especially their foibles and faults, but you seldom try to see them through God’s eyes. 

So this afternoon in my village of Newark Abbey I tried to overcome my “villagers’ vision” by attempting to see each of my brothers (or colleagues or students) as someone whom Jesus loves so much that He’s willing to die for them, as someone who is infinitely precious and loveable in God’s eyes. It was actually a beautiful exercise – I tried it on a couple of my brothers at mass this afternoon. How different someone looks when you see them through God's eyes! How different their words sound!

As time goes on this exercise will, I’m sure, challenge my imagination occasionally, but it will just as surely fill my heart with God’s love for the funky familiar folks around me, and help me to accept and appreciate my fellow villagers exactly as they are. Heck, if God loves them exactly the way they are, who am I to not love them as well? 

1 comment:

  1. From the newest encyclical "Lumen Fidei":

    “In faith, Christ is not simply the one in whom we believe, the supreme manifestation of God’s love; he is also the one with whom we are united precisely in order to believe. Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing.”