And he did not work many mighty deeds there
We have a remarkable story in today's gospel. We see a classic example of how familiarity can breed a hostile environment for Jesus' work among us. In this home town place of worship, Jesus isn't able to work any mighty deeds because they thought they knew him, and didn't have faith in who he could be for them. He's the carpenter's son. They knew his family. They thought they knew everything there is to know about him.
Isn't it also true that we can become hardened? Don't we too often get ourselves into a place where our sophisticated "knowlege" of so much can block our ability to be open to mystery, i.e., what we don't know, don't understand, can't yet imagine? I've asked before, and I didn't get the answer I wanted. I know this priest. We know what he's going to say. I know the prayers by heart. The liturgy is the same each week. And, when we aren't open, Jesus's hands are tied, his power is limited.
I sometimes think about how we receive the Eucharist - a gift so familiar, almost something that has become "ordinary" to us. I think, in contrast, that whenever a famous person (in fact, even a few people I've never heard of) come to my town for a concert or a talk, an incredible number of people stand in line with great excitement and pay really steep prices for a ticket to sit in a crowd of thousands, just to catch a glimpe at the person, or to say "I was there." And, if we get to get close, or perhaps shake the celebrity's hand or get an autograph, that would be memorable for a long time.
Yet, each Sunday, for many of us (and for some of us, on a daily basis), we are able to receive the "Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity" of Jesus himself. We receive what we call a "holy communion" with him. Yet, sometimes we get up in a "communion line" as if we are bored, distracted, focusing on the clothes and behavior of others.
Wouldn't it be an incredible unleashing of Jesus' power, if we were to be really open, alert, ready for this encounter with him? What if, in preparation, we were to practice paying attention to the Eucharistic Prayer to the Father, giving thanks and asking for the Spirit to transform the gifts on the altar? What if our hearts were deeply involved in that request. "Father, please transform these gifts so that they may become the Body of Blood of Jesus, for my salvation, today and forever!" What if we joined - inside of us, at a deepr and deeper level - in that request that "we might be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit" (Eucharistic Prayer II) or begging that the Father "grant that, we who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son, may be filled with his Holy Spirit and become one body, one spirit in Christ" (Eucharistic Prayer II)? Imagine looking up in a new way, with a completely open heart, as the priest says, "Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb." Imagine really feeling, experiencing that this Jesus, here in front of me, has taken away my sins, and I am so blessed to be called to this supper. It is possible to say the next words at a deeper, more conscious place in our hearts (echoing the words of the Roman official who so impressed Jesus by his confidence in Jesus' healing power: "Yes, Lord, I know I'm not worthy. Just say your word - just let it be done - and my soul will actually be healed." We can let the healing happen - the struggles in our families, the wounds that sometime handicap us, the bad habits we seem stuck in, the anger and judgments we hold on to. It can all be healed, just by our being open to it.
We could talk with Jesus on our way up to this communion with him. "Lord, I am asking you to let me receive you more fully today. You know what struggles we had at home before we left to come here. You know how wrapped up I am in so much worry, fear and anger. Let me be open to your love, as I receive you. Renew me by this communion with you and, please, fill me with your peace. United with you more completely, more gratefully, I know I can be more loving and forgiving at home, more hopeful and courageous at work, more generous and active in my parish community. Remain in me today and every day this week and let your Spirit connect me with your Spirit in others whom you call me to love."
We know Jesus has power to save us and heal us. We just need to take the steps, beyond the ordinary and familiar, to let his power and his love work in us.
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