Friday, August 3, 2012

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Friday: 3 August, 2012 –– 17th Week in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 26:1–9 / Matthew 13:54–58
When Familiarity Breeds Contempt
You have likely heard the saying "familiarity breeds contempt", which means the more you know something or someone, the more you start to find faults and dislike things about it or them –– or merely take them for granted. We find an example of this in our text. When Jesus returned to his hometown he was criticized on the basis of what was familiar.  The people looked at Jesus as a boy who had grown up among them. They saw the outward identity of family vocation –– he was a carpenter. If you think about it, they were looking at Jesus the way we size someone up today: family, education, vocation, wealth and social status…

The people were looking at Jesus with such fixed ideas that they could not see past their own presuppositions. This meant that Jesus could not do for them what they would not allow.  This may seem puzzling. How can God not do whatever he chooses? It seems that God has chosen to limit himself, at least in the context of relating to us personally, to what we choose. Our attitude can restrict the work of God!

How can this affect us today? We in the church can become overly “familiar” with what we hear and do. We can easily develop familiarity today with the Scriptures and think, "I've heard that before." The Eucharist itself can become “common” through repetition.  Haven’t you heard some church-goers complain of the Liturgy being “boring”? When this happens we cut ourselves off from what our Lord desires to do in us: The Gospel tells us: He did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.

Taking God and his grace for granted can easily turn into an attitude of contempt, even if we are not consciously intending it. Because of contempt, we can grieve the Spirit of Jesus and miss good things the Lord wants to give us.

If we realize our spirits are often dull, could it be we are coming to the mysteries of grace with a familiarity of habit? Have we allowed commonality to become routine?  How easily we can recite the confession of sin and repeat The Lord’s Prayer! How easily our minds can wander during the Eucharistic Prayer! How easy it is to receive the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and not expect to be transformed!

Jesus, help ME –– and help all of us –– to see beyond what is familiar to our senses.... to be open to the power of your Cross and Resurrection, which is always working powerfully for our salvation.

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