His Own Received Him Not
The very beginning of John’s Gospel, in describing the origin and mission of Jesus, tells us that “He came to those who were His own in the world, and His own received Him not. This week, we see that sad fact in action as Christ returns to His home town of Nazareth during His preaching tour.
How could this scene do anything but break our hearts? The people of Nazareth are people that God love in a very par-ticular way. He could have lived among any people on the face of the Earth, but the almighty and eternal God decided to spend His childhood and young adult years among them. God lived for three years among the people of all Galilee and Judea, but He gave decades to Nazareth. These people should have been the ones to recognize Him first. They should have been the ones to rally to His teaching before all others. They are the ones who should have had His back during all of His trials throughout HIs public ministry. Yet, precisely because they know Him, precisely because they are familiar with Him, they do not recognize who He really is, and they reject Him.
It would be easy for us to judge the inhabitants of Nazareth for the hardness of their hearts towards the God who chose to be their neighbor for so many years, but if we understand this Gospel clearly, and honestly evaluate our own lives, we can find the finger of accusation pointed back towards ourselves. We as Catholic are very much like the people of Nazareth. We live con-stantly in the company of God. He dwells in the tabernacles of every Catholic Church—fifteen of them inside the Beltway on the Virginia side alone!—and we have access to His Eucharistic Presence not only once in awhile, but very frequently, at times that are selected to be convenient for us. Each week, we have about twenty Masses here at Queen of Apostles, without counting wed-dings, funerals, or other special occasions! In these days, we now broadcast the arrival of God among us over the internet for all to see whenever they please! And yet, how many Catholics, precisely because they are familiar with our faith, either take Christ for granted, give up their belief even while practicing, or leave the practice of the faith all together? When the Lord Jesus comes to His own people at Mass, when He opens His heart to them in confession, when He calls to them through the Scriptures, how many of His own people today do not receive Him?
Of course, Christ did not end up alone because of His rejection at Nazareth. His Apostles, who came to Him from else-where, remained with Him far longer, and even though they fell to cowardice during the Lord’s Passion, they returned to Him after the Resurrection, and stayed faithful from that time on. Christ is always calling souls to Himself, souls who will recognize Him, understand His great love, prepare their hearts to receive His love, and spread word of Him to further communities. Even today, as so many in the West leave the faith and the love of God behind, new peoples are continually coming to Him across the world.
It remains for us to ask ourselves in which crowd we wish to find ourselves. Do we want to be among the Nazoreans who miss the value of Jesus simply because they’ve been around Him long enough to take Him for granted, or do we wish to renew our souls and our love for Christ, taking opportunities to see Him and His Body the Church through new eyes, so as to join the crowd of those who are still in awe of the God whose glory and goodness we may have begun to forget? No matter what we choose, the Lord’s love for us remains the same, and the moment we turn towards Him with a real desire for renewal, He will surely provide all the help we need to see Him for who He really is.