The gospel reading in today’s liturgy is the familiar story about Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, his home territory. It is the story of his not being able to accomplish very much because the people in his hometown recognized him and were unable to see beyond that fact. "Is this not the carpenter’s son?" "Where the did this man get all this?" The upshot of their skeptical attitude was that Jesus was unable to work many of the might deeds that he could elsewhere. Jesus response to this lack of faith was to simply recognize the truth that, as he says, "a prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house."
There’s something so familiar about this story. I can recognize a tendency in myself that says that things have to be bigger and better for them to be at all worthwhile. The dreams and schemes we have often have a grand design to them. It’s not that we should not dream big dreams and work as best we can to effect them. The problem comes, as the gospel story points out to us, when we fail to recognize the wonder and the majesty in the more ordinary and mundane things that are part and parcel of our lives.
Miracles are all around us. Unlike Jesus’ neighbors, we can penetrate the ordinary to discover the extraordinary goodness of God’s presence that surrounds us. For this, though, we need to remain open to the ways that God is made known in our world. Where are the miracles in my life? The obvious ones are pretty clear to us: the gentle loving care of Mother Teresa for the forgotten among us; the prophetic voice of Martin Luther King rousing us to action for the downtrodden; the many benefactors who pave our way to work towards a more humane world.
But what about the quiet, steady, faithfulness of our sister who raises children who care and try to make a difference? How about the uncle who struggles with illness and does not make it burdensome to others? The aunt who fights depression and the demons that threaten? The grandmother who ages so gracefully?
And the examples can go on . . . Are we too close to them to recognize the grace? Are we, like Jesus’ neighbors, blinded by the fact that we know these folks even know their foibles all too well, so that we can’t see them as the living miracles that they are? We can pray for the openness to notice and to be amazed at those unobtrusive ways that God tells us so insistently, "I am here for you; do not be afraid."
By Tom Shannahan