Daily Reflection
August 4th, 2000
John Fitzgibbons, S.J.
English Department
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Saint John Vianney, priest - Memorial 
Jeremiah 26:1-9
Psalms 69:6, 8-10, 14
Matthew 13:54-58

Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say, and violence begets violence.  Such is the wisdom of the world summarized by sages ages ago.  These thoughts have staying power, however, because they are part of the rhythm of human life in any age.

Jeremiah preaches a stern word from God to the people of Judah (26:1-9), namely, that unless they listen to their God and walk in God's justice their beloved Jerusalem -- all that they hold valuable -- will be laid waste.  For his trouble, Jeremiah is attacked by his familiars, the residents of Jerusalem, and threatened with death.

In Matthew's gospel reading for today (13:54-58), Jesus astonishes the crowd yet again.  But there is a sinister tone to their wonder.   Unlike the astonishment of the crowd who heard the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5 through 7), this crowd has turned surly.  Jesus has brought his message of the Reign of God to his home town, Nazareth.  Yet the crowds who hear him think they know all about him.  His wisdom cannot affect them and his healings cannot cure them because they "know" he is merely one of them, no better and no worse.  To the Nazarenes, Jesus is just a local who has gained some notoriety in nearby Capernaum...but, really, they know better.

What the Nazarenes fail to see is that in this person, flesh of their flesh, is the transcendent God made flesh.  Their answer to the question at the heart of their deepest longings, "Can the finite, my finiteness, cradle the infinite?" is a cynical, presumptive "No." 

We are so afraid of our finitude, our smallness, our vulnerability.  “Certainly,” we think, “no one related to me, no one who shares my heritage, my genes, my predilections can possibly have the words of eternal life!”  In thinking so, we fail to see the wisdom of life and we fail to allow God to satisfy our hearts' deepest desires. 

In our smallness and finitude and vulnerability, the God of the universe has chosen to dwell.  It's funny, isn't it, that those who are most familiar with their limitations and vulnerabilities rather than the confident and the presumptive are able to perceive the infinite love of God?

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