14th Sun OT - Yr B - 2015
The Gospel readings these last two Sundays have given us a chance to consider the role that faith plays in our lives. Two weeks ago, we saw that a lack of faith can leave us terrified when the storms of life swirl around us. Whether the Lord calms the storms or chooses instead to calm us – He tends to remind us of His presence when we reach out to Him, and that’s a real boost to our faith. Last week we encountered an unnamed hero in the woman whose faith saved her. She believed what she heard about Jesus, took concrete action based on that belief, and fell down before Jesus and told Him the whole story when He turned to her. If we follow her example, we have every reason to hope to hear Jesus say to us what He said to her: ‘My child, your faith has saved you – go in peace and be cured.’
Last week we encountered the power of an authentic faith – this week we encounter the obstacle that a lack of faith can become. Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith, and was not able to perform any mighty deed among them. It appears, considering these three weeks’ worth of Gospel readings, that while an authentic faith that leads to action and authenticity can save us, a lack of faith can leave us terrified and without the mighty deeds that Jesus wants to work in our lives.
I don’t know about you, but I want those mighty deeds to be worked in my life – in the life of our parish – I want those mighty deeds in our families. So maybe we should think a little more carefully about how the hometown crowd exhibited a lack of faith so that we don’t fall into the same trap and prevent Jesus from working those mighty deeds in our life.
Did they reject Him outright? I mean – did they see Jesus coming toward them and send Him immediately packing? It doesn’t seem so. He showed up for Church, and began to teach them – and from all appearances they accepted Him as a teacher among them. Not only did they stick around to hear what He had to say, it seems they were even a bit impressed by it. ‘Where did He get all this? What’s this wisdom that’s been given Him?’ Those seem like positive reviews to me. We say those things about preachers and teachers we think have something legitimate to say, don’t we? I’ve heard people say that about Fr. Robert Barron, for example. I’ve heard some of you say that about Pope Francis. It seems like they were perfectly happy to receive Him as a teacher – a profound teacher – a good teacher – a wise teacher, even. That wasn’t their problem – and that’s not our problem either, is it? We embrace the teaching of Jesus – at least for the most part. We struggle sometimes with the clarity of His teaching about marriage and divorce; we sometimes seem to be ignoring the ‘keys of the kingdom’ entrusted to the apostles for the forgiveness of sins by ignoring the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But overall we tend to embrace what Jesus taught. That wasn’t what prevented Him from working mighty deeds among them, and it’s not our struggle either.
I thought perhaps it was just that they didn’t believe Jesus could work mighty deeds – surely that kind of lacking faith would keep Jesus from doing amazing things among them. But that didn’t seem to be the problem either, did it? They seemed to accept – and even marvel at – the mighty things they’d seen Him do or heard of Him doing. They said so! ‘What mighty deeds are wrought by His hands!’ they exclaimed. So it wasn’t a lack of belief that He could do amazing things – and that’s not really our challenge either, is it? We believe that too on one level or another, don’t we? We’ve known Jesus to do amazing things in our lives and in the lives of others. We can remember amazing things that have happened that can’t be explained in any other way but to recognize that it was Jesus doing something amazing in our lives or the lives of others.
It wasn’t that they didn’t welcome Jesus among them. It wasn’t that they didn’t believe He could do amazing things. So…what was it that left Jesus amazed at their lack of faith and prevented from working mighty deeds among them?
The clue comes from their first statements of disbelief. It seems like what they had known of Jesus somehow kept them from encountering who Jesus was presenting Himself to be on that day. ‘’Wait a minute…wait a minute…isn’t this that little carpenter boy? Mary’s little boy? We remember Him…’ And all of a sudden what they had previously known about Jesus seems to get in the way.
I wonder if it’s like that for us sometimes.
You know – as we grow and change – as our faith journeys continue through this life – Jesus reveals more and more of Himself to us; our understanding of Him needs to grow right along with us. It’s not that Jesus changes – He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But we have to grow and change and develop past our own comfort zones in how we encounter Him, in what we know about Him, and in how we let Him into our lives. We have to let Him challenge us, convert us, change us – or He might be prevented from working the mighty deeds in our lives He wishes to work, just like He was prevented from working any might deed among them.
Friends – how is your experience of the Lord Jesus growing and changing – how has your encounter with Jesus become more mature? How are you letting your relationship with Jesus grow you? How are we letting Him become even more truly Himself to us than He has been before? This we must do – lest He be prevented from working the mighty deeds He hopes to work for us that we so desperately need.