Standing Up for Jesus

Matthew 13: 54-58
Jer 26: 1-9 / Psa 69

Only in his town and in his own house is a prophet without honor.
(Matthew 8:58)

If others remain cynical
That you have been by faith transformed
Just remember it’s typical
For prophets in their place be scorned.

Coming to His hometown, Jesus began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13: 54-58)

Reflection

It was no use for Jesus to work great miracles in His own hometown of Nazareth because He saw that their cynicism and hardness of heart prevented their faith conversion. Notice how our Lord almost always asked the beneficiary of His healing, “Do you believe?” In yesterday’s gospel reading, Jesus asked Martha if she believed that He was the Resurrection and the Life, and she readily answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who is to come into the world.” (Jn.11:27) And seeing her faith, Jesus brought her brother Lazarus back to life. It was also because of the Roman centurion’s faith that Jesus healed his servant, telling him, “You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you” (Mt.8:13).

It is by our faith in Jesus that we are healed from the deadly virus of sin, and in some cases, even from a life-threatening disease like cancer. This is a gift from God, and not of our own doing. St. Paul wrote, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph.2:8). And if we are not to boast, neither should we feel any shame or intimidation when our own friends or relatives regard our conversion with doubt or cynicism. All the more we should counter their jokes or criticisms by inviting them to our new life in Christ. We should never be ashamed to speak out for the One Who has shown us the Way and the Truth, and the freedom from sin. As our Savior reminds us, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven” (Mt.10:32-33).

Aside from our spiritual community, I am also very much involved (and have been for the last 27 years) with my running club. This group has been like a family to me, with its multi-social diversity of members composed of professionals, businessmen, employees, students, and even the unemployed, all bound by the common love for running. But running is not the only love of some members of the club. They also have a passion for the “good” things in life, like wine, women and song. And making fun of the “religious fanatics” in the club who do not join them in their nocturnal activities, nor share their worldly views. I believe God has put me in this “other family” for a purpose. After years of showing my resolve, the good-natured ribbings have lessened, and it has become standard practice to say grace before our Sunday breakfasts after the run. And a few members of the club have even joined our spiritual community.

Lord, as our mission You have given us the opportunity to bring Your Gospel values to others who do not share our beliefs. Grant us the grace to be steadfast in sharing Your Word, even in the midst of criticism, that we may be worthy of Your kingdom. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen.

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