By Father John P. Cush, STD
“Just who does he think he is!” In our Gospel from the Evangelist Mark, the Lord Jesus causes a great deal of amazement and more than a little bit of anger.
These people, “from his native place,” know him – or at least, they think that they do. They have seen him grow up. They know his family. They know that he is carpenter’s son. And they cannot believe what he’s doing right now! They can’t believe that some people are claiming that this Jesus, someone whom they know all too well, might actually be the long-awaited Messiah.
Just who does this Jesus, a local boy, think that he is? They think that they know him. And nothing can be further from the truth. In their apathy, in their complacency, perhaps even in their smugness, they are blind to the reality of exactly who it is who is standing right in front of them- the Son of God, the very Word of God made flesh for our salvation!
How often are we like that with the people in our lives? How often do we allow people to grow, to develop, to change, to become each day the person whom the Lord has created them to be? Or do continually box them into a category, allowing our first impressions to be our last impressions?
How often do we reduce people to simplistic stereotypes and not permit them to exhibit the tremendous uniqueness that they possess as human beings created in God’s image and likeness, and despite the presence of sin in their lives and in ours, still are fundamentally good?
In our spiritual lives, have we boxed in Our Lord Jesus in our lives? Do we think that we know the Lord all too well? Do we ever allow our relationship with Jesus to grow and change and develop? Have things grown stagnant in our relationship with the son of the carpenter who is, in reality, the Son of God?
Do we feel that we know that we know the mother of Jesus, Mary, all too well? Have we allowed our love and filial devotion to the Blessed Mother of God, Mary, to grow and develop?
What about our relationship with the brothers of the Lord? Who then these brothers? This can be a bit confusing. We need here to recall that they are not speaking in the Gospel about blood brothers. It is the doctrinal teaching of our Church that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, remained a virgin – before, during and after childbirth. Who then are the brothers of the Lord? We are! We are his brothers and sisters, the People of God, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
So, how’s our relationship with the Church? That may seem like a strange question, but I think it is an essential one. In an age when so many people try to say that the Church teaches this or that, do we know what it is that the Church really teaches? Do we try to accept what it is exactly that the Church, in her wisdom, teaches? Have we increased our level of understanding of the Church’s teachings on important issues? Do we seek a complete, mature comprehension of the teachings of the Church on issues of faith and morals, or do we simply stick to what we think the Church teaches or what we want the Church to teach on these issues?
What’s the best way we can remedy all this close-mindedness in our relationships with the Lord, our Blessed Mother, the Church and with our brothers and sisters in the world today? I would submit that we could begin with being open to all the richness and beauty that surround us in the world and the Church, in our spiritual lives and active lives. The world is a beautiful place, filled with the goodness of God shining forth in the faces around us.
May we be open to others, all of whom are filled with the love of God, created in His image and likeness. Be open. Don’t be afraid. The God of surprises is waiting to teach and to delight us!
Father Cush, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, serves as academic dean of the Pontifical North American College, and as a professor of theology and U.S. Catholic Church history.