Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus went to his hometown and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that had been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
The people who knew Jesus and his family thought they knew who was. They had an image of him which was based on what they expected someone of his age and background to be, and what they knew of his family. They were not able to expand their view of him and so could not accept that he could be anything other than a carpenter from their town.
The townspeople acknowledged that Jesus had extraordinary wisdom and had worked miracles. Part of their refusal to accept him may have been the result of “tall poppy syndrome”, driven by jealousy. They could not deny his obvious wisdom and power so chose instead to belittle and reject him. It was this attitude which prevented them having faith in Jesus. Their lack of faith was in contrast to that of the synagogue official with the sick daughter and the woman with a haemorrhage, who did not know him but sought his help because of their faith in him.
The expectations which families have of their members can be as limiting as those of Jesus’ townsfolk. Every human being is a surprise package, and the wise parent will allow the surprises to emerge, and then guide and shape them. The one expectation which every parent should have is that their child will become what God wants them to be, with their talents and gifts being used to the full.
The same principle applies in the relationship between spouses. A marriage should support people in their development as persons, and not suppress the gifts and talents of either partner. Sometimes one partner may need to stand aside to allow the other to do something which is important for their personal growth, but at a later time the situation should be reversed. This requires an attitude of mutual support between the partners rather than the continuing subordination of one’s needs to the other.
Love demands that we take account of the needs of others, especially those close to us, and that will sometimes limit what we can do. But often we need only postpone something while we attend to the needs of others, rather than abandoning it.
As adults, we need to be aware of limitations that others can place on our personal development, especially our spiritual growth. We may also be responding subconsciously to the limitations that perhaps our parents or community put on us as children. A generalised sense of frustration, resentment and unhappiness may be an indicator that we need to look more deeply into these issues.
The line from Hamlet “to thine own self be true” has a deeper meaning if we apply it to finding out about – and becoming - the person God intended us to be.