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Rise in Humility
A Reflection on the Gospel of Matthew 13:54-58 - 4 August 2023
Over the last several weekdays and Sundays, the Church has taken its readings from Jesus’ parables in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 13. Jesus, even in His parables requires a clear choice. Either you choose faith in the Kingdom and the gift of eternal life, or you reject that faith out of attachment to the world, or out of fear, and accept the pain and sadness of eternal separation from God and heaven. If all Jesus was asking for us was to accept His word, in faith, with no evidence; then rejection, one might argue, is reasonable. It is not reasonable, however, given all the evidence that St Matthew gives in the preceding chapters which offer definitive proof that Jesus is exactly who He says He is. In these chapters, Jesus heals the sick, restores sight, drives out demons, returns life to the dead, and even calms a storm at sea where,
“The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?” (Matthew 8:27 NABRE)
The answer: He is not simply a man, but God incarnate, consubstantial.
The rejection of the Gospel was then, and is even now, a mystery. Yes, we may not have witnessed today what St Matthew records, but how much does the world accept now as fact, of which we only have recorded evidence? When it comes to Jesus, there is an incomprehensible undercurrent of, “no!”, a taking of offense. St Matthew culminates this recounting of Jesus’ parables with a possible “why” to this rejection.
Today in the Gospel we hear of Jesus being rejected by those of His own hometown. We hear that they are impressed at first and asked, "Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?” (Matthew 13:54 NABRE) Unfortunately, their astonishment rapidly turns and astoundingly,
“they took offense at him.” (Matthew 13:57 NABRE)
How do we make any sense of this admiration followed by such an attack? Human sin, especially jealousy and pride, gets in the way. Let’s begin at Jesus’ hometown. People were less mobile in the time of Jesus than they are today. Those who took “offense” likely were Jesus’ family and friends. They know Him, and His family. They know or have witnessed His miracles, evidence of who Jesus is. They know the Scriptures and how He is fulfilling them. Yet, nonsensically, they reject Him, and in their rejection, they are particularly cruel. They go as far as to cast dispersions on Jesus’ birth. We hear them remark,
“Is he not the carpenter's son? Is not his mother named Mary” (Matthew 13:55 NABRE)
Typically, a Jewish man would be referred to in terms of his Father, for example, Jesus would be referred to as the son of Joseph. By not naming Joseph and calling Jesus, the son of Mary, they imply that Jesus is illegitimate. Those who know Jesus best, should have embraced Him and rejoiced in their blessing. Instead, they jealously cast insults and reject Him in a state of indignant pride. They ask; “Where did he acquire this wisdom?” “Who is he to preach to us?” “How can Jesus, whom we know so well, be the Messiah?” St John writes,
“[Jesus] came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.” (John 1:11 NABRE).
Despite the clear evidence all around them that Jesus is the Messiah, they take “offense.” St Matthew adds that,
“[Jesus] did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.” (Matthew 13:58 NABRE)
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St Matthew, in telling us the story of our Lord’s home-town rejection, helps remind us that we need to be constantly aware of the miracles around us and not simply reject them because they do not fit our conception of God or His humble messenger. How often do we hear of the Church, the clergy and the laity, rejecting the Saints and the beauty revealed to them because of their humble origins. Consider St Joan of Arc, St Bernadette Soubirous and the apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes, the three children of Fatima, or the appearances of our Lord to St Faustina. They were all rejected at first, not because of their message, but because of the messenger’s education and position in society. Next time you hear something grace-filled from another, whom you consider beneath you, raise them up, vice putting them down. Listen to the Lord with humility. Be ever watchful for the sin of pride, undue self-esteem, or self-love, which seeks attention and honor. The Proverbs tell us that,
“Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18 NABRE)
Actively guard against pride, it is insidious. Remember, it is pride that caused the fall of the Angels. Ezekiel recounts,
Your heart had grown haughty because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. I cast you to the ground, I made you a spectacle in the sight of kings. (Ezekiel 28:17 NABRE)
We must always make the effort to approach all we hear and see with humility. Humility is,
the virtue that enables us to recognize God as the source of everything that is good. Humility is the antidote to pride, which is an excessive love or estimate of oneself. (Suprenant)
Today’s Gospel calls us to humbly seek God in all that is around us and believe. Humility impels us to set aside our own prejudices and preconceptions. Actively seek God in every situation. He is there. Are we condemning or listening? Humbly listen! In the words of St John Vianney, whose memorial we celebrate today,
“Humility is like a pair of scales: the lower one side falls, the higher rises the other.”
In all things put on Christ! (Romans 13:14) Live Jesus!
New American Bible. Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
Suprenant, Leon J., Jr. Pocket Catholic Dictionary 2013: 41. Print. Faith Basics.