Friday, July 30, 2010

Familiarity Breeds Contempt


Readings for Friday, July 30/Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus:
Jeremiah 26:1-9
Psalm 69:5,8-10,14
Matthew 13:54-58

I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt.’ That little cliché phrase would be a great title for the gospel reading we hear today. Jesus returns to His hometown and goes to preach the message that elsewhere had been accepted by many. But He comes and the listeners are shocked by what He says, according to the scriptures. They start to think ‘Who does he think he is? Isn’t he the same one we’ve known for years? Where is he coming up with this?’ Because of the familiarity with Christ and His past, his relatives and daily life, they find it hard to listen to Him with open hearts. Their familiarity with Him prevents them from having faith and receiving the truth of His words.

In the course of recent years I have come to relate more with this gospel. As a young teen I was a bit rebellious, to put it nicely, and I often gave my parents and many of the people at CCD classes and youth group functions a bit of added ‘excitement’ in dealing with me and my friends. Sometimes when I go back home these things are recalled and people say “remember when you…” and it becomes clear that sometimes when people look at me they may well see in me the same Brent that a dozen years ago was finding his way into trouble frequently. I can hear echoes of the people in the gospel ‘Isn’t that Marian’s son? Aren’t his brother and sisters here…’ I can’t be sure, but I’d be willing to bet that there have been times when the Lord desired to speak through me but because of their familiarity with my past, they were prevented from hearing it.

And as I reflect on this fact, I realize that I have done this with myself sometimes. There have been times in my own life when I hear the Lord speaking to me, calling me to do things that seem too big for me. And I said to the Lord “Do you know who you’re dealing with? Do you realize where I’ve been and what I’ve done?” And I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Many of you have probably had a similar experience because we’re all sinners and yet are called by the Lord to participate in the work of spreading the good news. As we gather here today, the Lord invites us to set aside our own familiarity with ourselves and to be open to see ourselves as He sees us. Can we accept the invitation and allow Him to work in us that His truth might be brought to ourselves and through us that it might be brought to others?