Written by: Evan Cowie, UF Student
Familiarity breeds contempt. It happens with everything – when we become overexposed to something, whether good or bad, we can become desensitized to it. When it is a bad thing, we lose sight of just how much it hurts us. When it’s a good thing, we forget just how great it really is.
This is what is happening in today’s readings. In the first reading, the Lord is commanding Ezekiel to go and speak to the Israelites. They’d grown arrogant, thinking of God as the God of the Israelites – that is, as if He belonged to them in some way – when in truth, it was the exact opposite. The Israelites were special because God favored them, and without Him they were nothing. They were too used to Him, and took His favor for granted.
A similar thing happens in our Gospel reading – Jesus goes back to His homeland, and speaks to the people there. They just don’t seem to get it: He speaks wisdom to them in the synagogue, but they become offended by it. They think they already know Jesus – he’s just some carpenter, right? They have a superficial knowledge, and because of that they’re unwilling to dive deeper into real knowledge of Him. He was ordinary to them, and so when He finally made his extraordinariness known, they were offended by it.
As Catholics, we have to be careful not to let the same thing happen to us. We should live constantly in the presence of God, going to mass and confession as often as we reasonably can. When taken properly, these sacraments have the ability to draw us closer to God than anything else. When taken improperly, though, they can just as easily drive us away from a real relationship with God. Just like anything, if we go to mass and confession too often, without sufficiently reflecting on their miraculous nature, we become desensitized to their true mystery. We put God in our pocket, and think He’ll be content staying there.
So how do we guard ourselves against this human tendency? Today’s reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians might have a clue: rejoice in your weaknesses. In this life, while we are still working out our salvation, we are not going to be made perfect. If we start to think otherwise, to think of ourselves as perfect or complete, we forget that we need God. As created beings, we are categorically dependent upon Him for everything. So, paradoxical as it may seem, we should become aware of our weaknesses and rejoice in them, that they Lord’s power is made manifest through them. In this way, we may avoid the prideful contempt of the Israelites, and the callous familiarity of the Nazarenes.