In today’s Gospel, the people of Jesus’ home town refused to believe in His Teachings simply because they knew Him as merely a carpenter and the son of Mary; the simple woman in their neighbourhood. These people judged Jesus from their familiarity with Him and from Jesus’ externals. They thought they knew who Jesus is, but they were blind to the Truth of Jesus being the Son of God, the Saviour whom they have been waiting for.
Are we also guilty of such blindness? If a poorly dressed and dirty looking beggar knocks on our door or meet us in the street and ask us for some money, “How would we react?” “How many of us would tell ourselves, I am not wasting my $2.00 on him because he will only use it for drinks; he is already smelling of alcohol; he looks healthy and is too lazy to work. I shouldn’t spoilt him etc.”
How many of us will be able see beyond this beggar’s external appearances and feel the truth of the humiliation that he is going through in having to beg for a living? How many of us would be able to see the suffering Christ in him? Another example: “What if a very attractive and elegantly dressed woman comes up to us and asks us for direction; how differently would we treat this woman compared to the dirtily dressed beggar?!
There may be a lot of truth in the dirtily dressed beggar being a drunkard and a lazy bum, but how do you think Jesus would relate to him? Would Jesus judge the beggar harshly, or would Jesus reach out to him with compassion? Today’s Gospel is challenging each of us to overcome our blindness, our narrow views of life, people and most importantly the Truth of the Gospels of Jesus. The people of Jesus’ home town were so prejudiced about Jesus that they were blind to the Truth of His Teachings.
Today’s Gospel is urging us to reflect more deeply on our lives because most anxieties and unhappiness in life come from our blindness and our lack of willingness to face the truths of life.
One commentator wrote, “There can be no healing if a person refuses to be healed. There can be no preaching in the wrong atmosphere. In an atmosphere of expectancy the poorest effort can catch fire. In an atmosphere of critical coldness or bland indifference, the most Spirit-packed sermon can fall lifeless to the earth. There can be no peacemaking in the wrong atmosphere. If people have come together to hate, they will hate. If people have come together to refuse to understand, they will misunderstand. If people have come together to see no other point of view but their own, they will see no other.
But, if people have come together loving Christ and seeking to love each other, even those who are most widely separated from the group and community will be drawn into a unity of love in Christ. There is a tremendous responsibility that each of us have to bear. We either help or hinder the work of Jesus Christ. We can open the door wide to Him or we can slam it in His face.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the main challenge of today’s Gospel is that Jesus wants every person to be open to the Truth of Salvation so that our prejudices in life will not blind us from such truths.
Over the past two weeks of having presented our Parish Goal and how we are to challenge ourselves to live it, I have been receiving many positive feedbacks and renewed hopes for our Parish. Many have told me that they are happy and excited with the new challenges of our Parish; many have promised and are already rigorously participating in our Parish Goal through their selfless and generous ways of contributing to our present Bazaar project to raise funds for the poor and needy. Topping the list of such very positive feedbacks is a 95 year old parishioner.
A week ago she wrote to me saying, (and I quote extracts of her letter). “Dear Father Heng, we thank God for the inspiration, grace, wisdom, vision . . . of this power-packed document on our Parish Goal, PPC Structure and Direction. Having been on a PPC in Australia, 39 years ago, I am so gladly impressed by this document. . . . As we have never seen any parish document like this, we pray it will be of help to other parishes who are groping for one themselves. It certainly is a rousing call to answer the Lord’s call. We think having a Bazaar to celebrate the Feast of St Ignatius is a good one. We apologise we do not have any new things to donate. So, may we then contribute with a cheque and then on the 1 st and 2 nd of August, see how else we can help.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, we salute this 95 year old parishioner as our model parishioner. In spite of her old age she is still excited about wanting to contribute and serve God in our Parish. Apart from what she hopes to do, she has in the meantime given a very generous cheque donation, which can put many of us to shame. Most importantly, we clearly see how she does all these out of her deep love and faith in the Lord.
However, sad to say, we also have our fair share of some parishioners who are waiting to throw cold water on the Parish goal. This reality exists, I believe, in any Parish communities and indeed, in any human communities in the world. There will always be people who, for one reason or another, are never happy with change or worse still locked into their narrow mindsets and ways of living.
They are usually people who are not only blind to the truth, like the townsfolk of Jesus, but people who will always be critical and pessimistic instead of optimistic and life-giving. Their views are often confined to their self-interests and at the expense of the bigger picture and greater good of the majority. In saying these, I am not pin-pointing any one in particular. If you feel you are one of them, then today’s Gospel is particularly challenging you to grow in your faith. But, if you do not feel you are one of them, then you should praise the Lord for your openness and goodness to help build our Parish community.
Also, in saying all these, I am not trying to ward off the necessary comments and challenges that we need to hear and receive from parishioners. All feedbacks are welcome. Our Parish goal is but only one of the many concrete applications of how today’s Gospel is challenging you and me. If we are able to offer constructive comments, then we are helping to build our Parish, but if our comments are negative, pessimistic and worse still divisive, then we are clearly not inspired by the Holy Spirit, but by some emotional hurts, unfreedom or worse still some Bad Spirits within us. When we are down and upset with people and situations, there is a saying that is useful to us that says, “instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.” Thank God as far as our Parish is concern, I believe these people are few and far in-between.
To conclude, let us remind ourselves that today’s Gospel is precisely challenging you and I to be more open to God’s Truth however we encounter them in our daily living. Such truths could come as a knock on the door, a Parish Goal document, a verse in the Bible, the communal Eucharistic celebration, an inspiration to pray more meaningfully or a challenge to share our blessings with the poor and needy and the like.
However we encounter these challenges, let us remember that if a 95 year old parishioner can still be enthusiastic about putting God at the center of her life, then each of us too should challenge ourselves to take a step forward towards the growth of our faith. Otherwise, like the people of Jesus’ home town we may only see what we want to see and miss the Truth that Jesus is trying to reveal to us daily. Our Lord must be the center of our lives, the reason for our actions and the inspiration of our zeal to live for His Greater Glory.
Fr Philip Heng, S.J.