Matthew 13:53-58 (CEB): When Jesus finished these parables, he departed. When he came to his hometown, he taught the people in their synagogue. They were surprised and said, “Where did he get this wisdom? Where did he get the power to work miracles? Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother named Mary? Aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? And his sisters, aren’t they here with us? Where did this man get all this?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.
But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns and in their own households.” He was unable to do many miracles there because of their disbelief.
“I know who you are,” came the accusation. The convicted killer hung his head in shame. The mother of the young woman he murdered stood there sobbing, barely able to control her anger.
“You took my only child from me, from her father, from her husband, and from her children. You deserve what you get,” she cried, visibly shaking with anger.
“I know and I’m so sorry,” said the man quietly with his head still down.
The priest, who was standing next to the man, put his hand on the woman’s arm. “I believe this man to be sincere. He has confessed to me and God his crimes and has been forgiven. He’s now part of God’s New Creation. He’s now your brother.”
“He is no brother of mine,” the mother exclaimed. Looking at the man she said, “You may have tricked him, but I know who you really are!” She slapped his face, turned on her heel and stormed away.
The man, still with his head hung low, gently wept.
Sometimes, when we knew someone ‘way back when,’ we keep reminding them of it every chance we get. And, for others of us, we won’t believe that someone has changed, that she is no longer the person she once was. That’s the feeling I get when reading today’s Gospel passage. For some of us, God can change the most heinous criminal (like the one in the story) but we have a hard time believing that God has changed our spouse or parent or child. We have too much history and, at times, seem to be just waiting for that person to ‘trip up’ and fall back into their old ways. And, as soon as she does, well, we are too quick to pipe up with an ‘I knew it!’ or ‘I told you so!’ I know it’s part of the human condition, but I just don’t understand it. I mean, we believe that God can move mountains, heal all kinds of diseases, even raise the dead (!), but, for some reason, we have a hard time believing that God can change someone we know and love from a ‘scoundrel’ to a person of God.
Furthermore, some of us have no problem in believing that God changes others but we have a very difficult time in believing that God can change us. I mean, who knows us better than ourselves, right? We have to live within our own history. We have to live with whatever sorrow we brought upon others and feel the shame of it (like the man in the story). We try and ‘do right’ and ‘act accordingly’, but then, in those quiet moments of reflection (and sometimes, right in the middle of our good deeds!), flashes from our past come rushing in. We feel the sting of hippocracy and wonder how in the world can we really be changed? How can God really use us to further implement God’s Realm now?
But, like the Gospel and the little story, it seems that we are the ones who ultimately suffer for not believing that God can change others. And, it seems, that our unbelief can be a hindrance for what God is wanting to do in our lives through those very people because we can’t see past their history (see v. 13). As I told a dear Brother recently, if we have an issue with God saving our enemy and making him our Brother, then that is our problem, not God’s.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC