Thicker than blood

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Jonjee C. Sumpaico, S.J. - The Philippine Star

There are three roles that each Christian receives in baptism: King, Priest, and Prophet. As king, one is blessed so as to serve and not to be served. As priest, one is consecrated to be able to constantly pray and bring others to worship the living God. As prophet, one is asked to speak the truth and live the truth even if it means that the experience would not be pleasant. This Sunday’s Gospel focuses on this last role – and how in staying true to the role risks not being accepted by those who are considered closest to the person.

The people of his hometown saw Jesus to be the hero as he read such beautiful and powerful words from the writings of old. They expected much from him as well, as news had already spread to his hometown on what he was able to do in the neighboring towns.

Jesus gave a foretaste of what was to be expected in following the mission that was laid before him. After reading the words from the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue, a quick reversal of events beset Jesus in his very own native place. He mentioned to his own people that what he read was being fulfilled in their hearing. He also immediately drew the line on what his mission really meant.

The people were looking for Jesus who would perform signs and wonders for them in their own time and place, in their own terms, and in their own comfort zones. Instead, Jesus showed them that the reign of God was not what they think – that in being heard, God’s word was already at work in their midst.

And to drive home the point of their unbelief, Jesus raised from their collective memories the scriptural events of the past when the other two great prophets of old, Elijah and Elisha, ministered to those who were “unchosen” – those who were not their own people.

Jesus’ prophetic words create division among those who hear it. Often it also carries with it some pain of uncomfort and even some questions of “why others and not us?” This sense of entitlement can be one of the great pitfalls that one can have. When we begin to sound like the people of Jesus’ hometown and say, “the great things that we hear you do, do it here,” then we are falling into the same trap that they fell into. We cannot influence God to play favorites.

The hometown people could not see the point of view of Jesus because they were blinded as they focused only on their own points of view. They wanted to be more special than the rest but they failed to realize that the love and mercy of God is given to all and for all.

It is just a bit sad to think about this situation since the first persons who ought to have supported and understood Jesus were his long time friends and neighbors. But instead, they were the first ones who wanted Jesus gone.

Perhaps we might also want to consider that not all people from Jesus’ hometown had this same attitude. Let us remember some familiar words from one of his own townmates, Mary, his mother. When she said, “let it be done to me according to your word,” she surrendered herself to God’s will and fixed her gaze on how God will bless her in so many ways.

This act of allowing God to reign in one’s life is the very act of following the mission that Jesus proclaimed. It is allowing God to be with his people in his own time, in his own place, and in his own manner. Following the example of the Blessed Mother, we beg for that grace, for our hearts to be placed close to her Son. Let us learn from her lead as we share in Jesus’ mission. As Mary told the servants at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you,” let us also follow her instructions of letting Jesus be when he proclaims:

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

Blessings cannot be known by hearts that fail to look outward. A self-centered heart only sees itself and not the movements of God’s Spirit.

Blood may be thicker than water but Spirit is thicker than blood.

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