August 2, 2019
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. Mt_13:54-58
There’s an old expression that says, “familiarity breeds contempt.” And yet, before we ever reach the point of contempt, after we’re struck with astonishment and wonder, we find, that pride and jealousy often set in.
And as we’re engulfed with boredom and loss of faith, we find ourselves either numb and hopeless, or else filled with anger and contempt. We see all of these stages of familiarity in Jesus’ interaction with His friends and neighbors today.
And, if we dig a little deeper, we can even see this phenomenon throughout the history of the Jewish nation. We saw Joseph’s brothers reach the same point of contempt when Joseph expressed his gift of prophesy. And we also saw how the Israelites were quick to abandon Moses and God, even after their miraculous escape from Egypt.
So, as a potential remedy, God set up reminders for the Israelites in the form of annual celebrations and festivals. Passover was their yearly reminder of God’s salvation from Egyptian slavery and death. Pentecost, or Shavuot, represented their first harvest in the Promised Land, and how God kept them constantly nourished. The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur would remind the Israelites of those Ten Commandments, of their need for repentance, and of God’s great mercy. And the Feast of Booths, or Succot, was a reminder of their 40-year sojourn in the desert, living in tents, and protected by God.
But it’s funny, because even with all of those yearly reminders, eventually they became so familiar to the Jews, that the reality of God’s saving miracles passed from amazement and wonder – to pride and jealousy, to boredom and lack of understanding, and even to contempt. Foreign, pagan practices became their “new and exciting” vices, their gods.
And in their weakness from lack of faith in God, they became vulnerable to the armies of other nations and dispersed from the bond of unity that God had formed with them. It truly was a sad case of familiarity leading to contempt, leading to death.
And then there’s us. After 2000-years since our own awe and wonder over the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, our Church has certainly been through the ringer of familiarity. From splintering schisms, to misguided power, to mass exodus, to corruption and boredom and loss of faith, we find ourselves in the midst of the same contempt that Jesus faced.
And yet, for us, the faithful remnant, we are renewed in our yearly Liturgical feasts. We are invigorated in our holy Sacraments. We are strengthened in our Faith in Jesus. We are united in our Baptisms. And we are enlivened in our very
real and eternal union with God, through the Blessed Sacrament, in our Holy Mass, and with the Holy Spirit dwelling within our hearts.
You see, we are the enigma.
We are the paradox that familiarity doesn’t have to lead to contempt, but it can result in Faith and Love instead!
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