Thursday, July 31, 2014

“Is He Not the Carpenter’s Son?”

Feast of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

By Melanie Rigney

Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the house of the Lord and speak to the people of all the cities of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord; whatever I command you, tell them, and omit nothing. Perhaps they will listen and turn back, each from his evil way, so that I may repent of the evil I have planned to inflict upon them for their evil deeds. (Jeremiah 26:2-3)

Those outnumber the hairs on my head who hate me without cause. Too many for my strength are they who wrongfully are my enemies. Must I restore what I did not steal? (Psalms 69:5)

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. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and his own house.” And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:54-58)

Holy Spirit, Divine Consoler, I adore You as my true God, with God the Father and God the Son. I adore You and united myself to the adoration you receive from the angels and saints. I give You my heart and I offer my ardent thanksgiving for all the grace which You never cease to bestow on me. (Opening of St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Prayer for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit)

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates nearly 12 percent of Americans move every year.  Whether that move is across the country or across town, it’s an opportunity to start fresh. We can arrange the furniture and the cupboards as we like, find new friends, discover new restaurants, restart our faith lives as members of a different congregation, and perhaps leave behind some bad habits and behaviors. In some ways, it’s like receiving the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation—we start anew, clean and fresh.

Except, of course, that the people who know us remember us and our space as they were. Like the people of Jesus’ hometown, they can be a bit cynical. They saw us yell at our children. They heard us gossip about the neighbors. They have a bit of insight into just how messy our homes, our yards, and our lives were.  They aren’t accepting of the possibility that we might have changed or that we always had something to offer them and the world and that it just took a while for it to show.

When Jesus was in this situation, he didn’t call people out beyond a mild rebuke. But he didn’t perform the mighty deeds he might have otherwise. It’s a good lesson in how to deal with those who knew us when… and a reminder to us to be open to the possibility of change in others. If we’re not, we will be diminished.


Have a conversation with someone you find difficult to love. Turn off the internal filters that tempt you to anticipate what the person is going to say based on the history. Listen.

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