“Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this? And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, A prophet is not without honour except in his native place and in his own house. And he did not work many might deeds there because of their lack of faith.” Mt 13:54-58
Jesus did not work many mighty deeds in his native place. Why? Matthew says to us because of their lack of faith. It is strange that those people were faithful, attended synagogue, listened to the word of God, fulfilled all the laws faithfully and yet Matthew says that the lack of faith was the reason why they rejected Jesus.
This situation teaches us that it is possible to be in a synagogue, in a church, to participate in prayer and yet to have something that prevents us from encountering Jesus. It is possible to be close to Jesus and to be far from Him. Let us take a closer look what happened in that synagogue.
People from Jesus’ native place were looking and listening to Jesus teaching in their synagogue. We can presume He spoke of great things and these people noticed that and they acknowledged He spoke in wisdom and had mighty force within Him. They all stated that and they all see that. Jesus must have given them some strong message through some beautiful and appropriate life situation or from the nature, as He used to do…However, His word fell on the stone ground of His listeners. It does not reach them. They took offense at Him, they saw this as a sort of scandal. This word means there was an obstacle on the way to them. Between them and Jesus there was a great obstacle, huge wall. Instead of opening to the message Jesus had for them, to His wisdom, instead of a question arising in them: what does He want to say, what does He speak about, does this refer to me, they asked the other question: Where did this man get all this?
Jesus was sending a message to them, a wise message and they were closing towards Him, they brought the issue back to Him and began to be engaged with Him: Where did this man get this wisdom and mighty deeds?
We wonder now what happened with their gaze when they asked this question and we notice that their gaze had to go through a quite long journey. After Jesus said these words of wisdom and showed mighty deeds, their gaze descends down on Jesus and searches for the answer to the question: where did He get this!
Their gaze now searches for the causes and stops at Jesus’ family: the son of carpenter, mother Mary…and back to Jesus! Now they looked at him through His family.
His family, Joseph, the carpenter and Mary, his mother were simple, common people. This is where their mind stops and cannot move on, for they are before the wall.
Therefore, they make conclusion: it is impossible! It is impossible for Him to have such wisdom and such mighty deeds, we know him, something is not right there…What had happened? The knowledge they had about Jesus has turned into the huge barrier that they cannot cross over at all!
That is how they became closed and the lack of trust was created in their hearts as well as the animosity towards Jesus, huge barrier and Jesus was not able to reach them at all! There was a strange atmosphere of closeness, gazes of doubts and lack of trust in Jesus and He was not able to work in them at all. This is something that tells us much about our interior, about what happens within us and this is very important for our relations towards God and people.
People of Nazareth who were in the synagogue were not aware that their gazes were not pure, that something entered their hearts and decided on their gaze and a way of thinking! They were unaware that something else was forming their opinion on Jesus! They were unaware that they do not see Jesus purely, as Him, yet they look at Him through His family! This gives us a great school on man’s heart. In a heart, there is the image of others being created, through the way we look and the way we think.
Let us remember the words of Jesus, when your eye is bright, the whole body will be bright. When we have light, good and positive thoughts in us, then such thought will create the way we think, if we on the other hand, have negative thoughts about someone these negative thoughts will create the way we see that person. Some people always search for good things in the others and some only for those things that are bad.
The other time Jesus told us, Blessed are those pure in the heart for they will look at God. We all do not see others in the same way, our perception is always different. Those who are in love, always see good things about the person they love and the reason is in our heart. If our heart has envy or jealousy, this will influence our hearts, if there is love, the other person will always seem different.
In the parable of the prodigal son merciful father and the older son look at the same person, younger brother and they see him in a different way.
We can have distorted perception of a person of a different nation, religion, party, our neighbour, but Jesus tells us therefore: do not take the splinter out of your brother’s eye before you removed the wooden beam from your own eye, our heart. We need to be aware that in us, in our heart there may be something that causes our distorted perception and we need to do all we can to discover that. We always need to be aware what is that we take that feeds us, our hearts, how many influences there are around us that we are exposed to…With every right, we ask the question: if our perception is so unsecure, does it make sense to bother around the knowledge at all? Can we make any conclusions at all then? Can we judge others? As much as our hearts are the cause of the distorted gaze, we also have there to key to make that gaze right. How do we find the key? Our misery is not so much for having different opinions on the same subjects, but of not being aware that our gazes are not pure. If people of Nazareth were aware of the prejudice that entered their hearts, perhaps everything would have been different at the end!
Let us recall yesterday’s conversion story of Blanka Vlašić. She said how her conversion and major change in her life happened at the parking lot! She calls that moment her conversion. It was just a moment, awakening, opening of her eyes, opening of her consciousness and suddenly, everything became different. From that time on, all things, all persons, all problems had a different light on them.
Let us recall a mother from Barcelona who gave birth to 18 children, 15 of them living now, people say to her: Poor you, a widow with 15 children and she says: I listen to them saying this to me but I feel: Blessed me, a mother surrounded with 15 children! Man looks at himself and others when he has lack of faith in him, lack of trust, as people of Nazareth, and has a different look when there is faith, hope and love.
When our heart is clean, when there is love in it, the enemy can be changed and turned in a friend. When the heart is free, then all things seem different!
That is why here in Medjugorje we are called to pray with the heart, so our hearts would be opened to the Lord anew and to His gaze, in the confession or in the Holy Mass…We are called to gaze at Him in Adoration, in Veneration of the Cross, so He would change us and change our gaze, so our hearts would be liberated in fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, or when we read and listen to the Word of God, when we pray Rosary on Apparition Hill or the Way of the Cross on Cross Mountain – this all has the purpose of helping us in opening our gaze. When we climb the hills, our hearts would be transformed and cleansed so we would return home transformed and changed, with our gazes being different.
We who gathered this evening not just in a synagogue, but to the encounter with Jesus, let us pray that He may open our eyes and hearts so we become aware of all barriers within us, if there are any prejudice, labelling of others, idealising them or making them demonised…if there is any arrogance in us or the complex of the inferiority, hardness of hearts, inability to forgive, so Jesus would change us and our hearts with the same gaze He had when he touched Peter’s heart.