When men are ordained, they often return to their home parish to celebrate their first Mass and preach, so that the community from which they were called can rejoice with them at the beginning of their ministry as priests. It is a wonderful and joyful moment.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus goes to his hometown to give his first sermon. It didn’t go so well.
What was in his Heart as he read the scroll and sat down to teach? “The eyes of all… looked intently at him.” Surely, Jesus looked intently at them, perhaps even eagerly. He came to his hometown to begin his preaching and to share the Good News with them first; he says clearly that he is the Messiah Isaiah had prophesied. His beautiful and loving discourse moved them to be “amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”
But things turn sour when he tells them the full truth: that the grace and salvation of God are for ALL people, Gentile as well as Jew. They become furious, even trying to hurl him over a cliff. But it is not yet his time and his mission is not yet fulfilled, so he mysteriously “passed through the midst of them and went away.”
Jesus reveals to the world that God loves all, and that the full truth is what makes us fully free. It is our own narrowness and selfishness and prejudice that keep us (and others) confined in false notions and prisons of propaganda. For the Jews of Jesus’ time, the falsehood was that only THEY were privy to God’s love and mercy, and that the letter of the law was enough to make one righteous. They had convinced themselves that the Messiah would come with mighty vengeance and kingly authority and vindicate them from the oppression of pagan political power. They were not open to a different narrative, and certainly not open to the possibility that Joseph’s son – so familiar to them – was worthy of supernatural faith.
Prejudice and familiarity are great obstacles to the deep humility and loving faith needed to be truly open to God’s grace! If we block out possibilities because we think we know, or our hearts fall into routine or boredom, we are not open to the beautiful surprises of grace. We fail to see them, we explain them away, or we attribute them to something else. God doesn’t stop working in our lives, but we stop seeing Him at work!
So it is good to ask the Spirit to show us where our blind spots are, where our narrowness or selfishness is blocking the light of God at work in us and in the world, and what we can do right now – today – to be more open to the fullness of truth. We can pause with Christ to see where our own notions might block our ability to see the full Truth. Then we are closer to being fully free.
Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.