Praise and Prejudice

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

And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”
(Matthew 13:57)

Jesus put His kinfolk ill at ease,
And exposed their crab mentality;
The sins of envy and prejudice
Are chains of mediocrity.

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, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:54-58)

Reflection

Our Lord Jesus lived in the tiny village of Nazareth for thirty years, and in all that time, His townmates never gave Him any importance. He was merely the son of the carpenter Joseph and the simple housewife Mary. It was only when He started His ministry at the age of 30 that He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea of Galilee, preaching to the people to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt.4:17). He began to recruit His disciples, and started healing the afflicted and exorcizing evil spirits from the possessed all over Galilee. His miraculous deeds and inspiring messages attracted thousands of followers, and His fame spread and certainly reached His small town of Nazareth. So why were the people in His hometown so amazed when they heard His teaching in their synagogue? Why did they question His miraculous powers? It was because Jesus lived the ordinary life of a humble worker before He began His ministry. Even though He was God and could perform miraculous deeds before His appointed time, He chose to be insignificant for a good reason. It was to show His own people their prejudice and hardness of heart, just as their ancestors had rejected the prophets that Yahweh God had sent to preach against their lawless ways. In the Gospel version of Luke, Jesus even cited the prophets Elijah and Elisha, who were persecuted by the people of Israel, and were therefore sent to minister to the Gentiles. But instead of accepting His message, the villagers wanted to kill Him (Lk.4:29).

The good or mighty deeds that one accomplishes can elicit two kinds of reactions from different people: praise or prejudice. Praise comes naturally to people of goodwill, people of faith, who do not doubt the superiority of good over evil, and believe in the power of encouragement and trust. Then there are those who react negatively to the good or success of others. By instinct they are prejudicial and biased, like the case of Floyd Mayweather, who claimed (without evidence) that Manny Pacquiao had been on performance enhancing drugs in his victorious fights in the ring. He was slapped the serious charge of defamation.

Let’s make it a healthy habit of praising others for their good and honorable deeds. More importantly, let us always praise our Lord Jesus for all His lessons that keep us on the right path, and for being our Savior and source of strength and inspiration. Of course God does not need our praises (although He does not take kindly to being taken for granted), but we need to praise and exalt Him constantly to keep us strong in our faith and trust in Him.

Most loving Father, help us take away all forms of prejudice from our hearts, for they only alienate us from Your love; grant instead that we may only see and appreciate the goodness of Your creation in everyone, that we may give You praise all the days of our lives. Amen.

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