By Sister Ana Cloughly, OSB
Years ago I was a campus minister in Colorado Springs, Colorado. For me, it was a great joy to have a few minutes to visit with the parents of our students about to graduate. Many of our students had deeply spiritual lives and their depth of faith showed in significant acts of service. There is one young man I remember. Anyone who knew him, knew he was very committed to his faith. The night before graduation, his mother and I had a short conversation. Instead of saying all the obligingly things one usually says to parents, I started to share how much I admired her son and the way he lives out his Christianity. She stopped me and said, “Everyone thinks he’s a saint, but we know better”. When I looked a little confused, she nudged me with her elbow and said, “You know, we mothers really know our children”. I smiled and went on about something else. Afterward, today’s gospel echoed in my mind.
Today we hear that Jesus came to his hometown. While Jesus taught in the synagogue, the people “began to take offense” and “he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.” Jesus explained to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” This passage raises two questions. Why did the people take offense at Jesus’ teaching? And more importantly, why was Jesus not able to perform great miracles there?
Like my student, I believe that Jesus had an additional level of scrutiny to overcome. His family and kin believed they knew him better. He grew up with them. Unlike my student though, Jesus wasn’t sent away for school. He went away. On returning, it likely appeared to everyone that he was showing off. Of course, this was not the case. Going to his hometown, Jesus would have wanted to share his teachings. These are the people he loves most and for the longest time. How disappointing it must have been for him. I see this narrative as a growth experience for Jesus.
As Benedictine women, we seek God in prayer and community. I have full confidence all of my sisters will agree that living in a community in our monasteries is a way of life that teaches us much about ourselves. When I entered the monastery, I was told, “community life is like smoothing rocks in a tumbler. We start out rough and as we bump against one another, we eventually become smoother.” I’d say this metaphor is the truest I have ever heard. I wonder if this metaphor could apply to this story of Jesus’ homecoming. Are some of his human rough spots being smoothed?
That leads me to the question of faith. All of the gospel narratives for the past few weeks have been about faith. We are told that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. When Jesus and the disciples where crossing by boat, the disciples became fearful during a storm and Jesus considered their fear as a lack of faith. Last week we heard about Jesus curing two women. One by virtue of her own faith and the other because of her father’s faith. The gospel describes Jesus as being “amazed” by their lack of faith.
Faith has many facets to it. We need faith to accomplish big things. We can have faith strong enough to help heal others. We need the kind of faith that reaches out to touch Jesus. And today we learn a lack of faith somehow blocks Jesus’s ability to do miracles. For most of my life I’ve thought of faith as a noun. Something I pull out when I’m in need, like a phone. I carry it all the time but only use it to call someone or to order lunch (and yes, to check my social media). At some point, I’m not sure exactly when, faith became a verb, like exercise, it’s something I have to do daily. Faith is the loving act of prayer, the activity of daily work, the energy behind starting large projects and the compassion behind caring for others.