YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTEMPT
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
A seventy-year-old widow had a serious heart attack. During her ordeal, she encountered the Lord who said to her: “You are not yet going to die.” She asked, “Lord, how many years more will I live?” The Lord answered, “Thirty years more.” Delighted by the news, she recovered rapidly. Thinking of the thirty years ahead of her, she decided to undergo a series of cosmetic surgeries – facelift, bust lift, Botox, liposuction and many others. A month after all these surgeries, she looked thirty years younger, and more beautiful. A week later, while crossing the street, a wayward truck hit her, and she died instantly. In the presence of God, she complained: “Lord, you said I will live for thirty years more. Why did I die so soon?” The Lord answered, “Oh, I thought it was somebody else. I did not recognize you!”
The Gospel this Sunday is rather sad. We would understand if Jesus was not recognized by people from other towns. But not to be recognized and even rejected by his town mates in Nazareth is truly heartbreaking. That is why the Gospel said that Jesus could not work any miracle there, “apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.”
There are several reasons why the people of Nazareth did not recognize and accept Jesus. First, they were in error. They thought they knew what a Messiah should be. They rejected Jesus because he did not conform to their mistaken idea of a true messiah. They thought they knew Jesus: that he is the carpenter, the son of Mary, a simple and ordinary guy next door. They were very sure of this because they have known him since childhood. “They took offense at him.” This is the classic example of “Familiarity breeds contempt.” What they did not know was his divinity hidden behind his humanity. They were familiar with him, but it was only on the superficial level. As it is always said, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” It is always prone to errors, prejudices and misconceptions.
This also happens to us. Most of us were baptized since infancy. We are too familiar with the Mass, the rituals, the biblical readings, the homilies and the sacraments. And this familiarity breeds contempt. We see many Catholics who come to church on Sundays and even receive Holy Communion in short pants and tank tops. They talk to one another in church and they even use their cell phones during the celebration of Holy Mass. The Mass has, indeed, become too familiar to them. And sadly, though familiar, many of us are still ignorant of the basic doctrines of our faith. We do not have a basic understanding of the meaning of the celebrations, and we do not give serious attention to the Word of God. Most of us are already tired of the routine and ordinary things we see in Church. We long for something new, something exciting, but we have not yet exerted any effort to discover the dynamic beauty and boundless treasures behind those ordinary and simple things of our faith. For many of us, there is familiarity, but there is not yet the smallest amount of intimacy with Jesus and his Church. It becomes so easy, then, to reject Jesus in favor of something new and exciting.
Second, the people of Nazareth did not recognize and accept Jesus because “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” A prophet is the spokesman of God. He speaks what God wants to say to His people, whether they like the message or not. Jesus is the prophet par excellence. In the past God spoke through human instruments; but now God speaks through His own Son, Jesus. It is not surprising therefore, that he will be rejected, even by his own town mates, because his message and teachings ran counter to their values and preconceived notions and ideas about God.
And again, this happens to many of us. We reject the messenger because we do not want to hear the message. A man addicted to smoking said, “I read in the newspaper that smoking is dangerous to my health. So now I stopped.” His friend was delighted and asked, “You stopped smoking?” “No,” he replied. “I stopped reading the newspaper.” As a priest, I have experienced many times the fury and indignation of some people because of some homilies I preached. The truth is I do not preach my own opinions and ideas. I only preach what Jesus said and what the Church teaches. The truth hurts. And that is why the messenger of the truth is usually rejected. All prophets in the Bible were killed, not by outsiders, but by their own people.
And finally, the people of Nazareth lacked the most important element to be able to accept Jesus: the gift of faith. The Gospel said: “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” If faith can move mountains, lack of faith builds mountains that block the hand of God. Nothing is impossible with Jesus. He has the power to do any miracle. But he just could not do any miracle in his hometown because of their lack of faith. He knew that in such a situation, disastrous things could result instead of spiritual benefits for the people. Working a miracle for people who have no faith will do more harm than good. As a quote says, “For those who do not have faith, no miracle is enough; for those who have faith, no miracle is necessary.”
Let us examine ourselves. Have we truly accepted Jesus as our Lord? If so, why do we still believe in superstitions, horoscopes, palm readers, feng shui and many other non-Christian practices? The Lord invites us now, not just to be familiar with him, but more importantly, to be intimate with him, to enter into a personal relationship with him so that we will truly know and love him. Like Thomas the Apostle, may we be able to say with full conviction: “My Lord, and my God!” (Jn 20:28). And like Peter, may we say: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn 6:68-69).
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422