Miracles happen all the time. Might deeds take place around us all the time! Do we not perceive them?
Even the Romans wrote that Jesus of Nazareth was a mighty wonder worker. When he found he cured it. When he encountered demons he exorcized them. When he saw hunger he fed them. When he found sin he forgave it. Jesus was a mighty wonder worker everywhere, except in his hometown of Nazareth.
Interesting that the cynicism and sarcasm began in the holy place- the synagogue. After prayers, the chief rabbi chose Jesus to proclaim the scriptures. Jesus unrolled the scroll and after the reading he was asked to preach. His own townsfolk reacted quite harshly. They said, “This can’t be the same boy who grew up with us, is it?” “Where did he get all this?” “Isn’t he the carpenter?” “Oh, he’s the son of Mary, the woman who had her child early, ‘wink,’ ‘wink.’” “Wait, we know his family, his brothers and sisters.” “There’s James over there. We see Joses, Judas and Simon, and all of his sisters.” And since familiarity breeds contempt, Jesus, the neighborhood boy, remained a stumbling block for them. While at home, he cured only a few sick people but that was it.
Brothers and sisters, mighty deeds happen less and less in our day because of cynicism and sarcasm. Can we find these here at the monastery and in the villa? A cynic is a scornful pessimist. A sarcastic person literally is someone who tears away the flesh. They are enemies of religion.
St. Gregory Nazianzen says that there are two things necessary for mighty works: the faith of the patient and the power of the healer. This applies to medical care as well as to moral transformation. Jesus could not work any mighty deed in Nazareth because of their lack of faith. Jesus was amazed at his neighbors’ scorn and their biting words. The prophet Ezekiel uses the words “hard of face” and obstinate of heart” to describe people who refuse to believe. It isn’t that God cannot work miracles. The problem is that mighty deeds happen all the time around us. Our attitudes prevent us from seeing them.
There is a little sarcastic cynic in all of us. We are not talking about our jokes. We speak about mindsets. Christians possess transformed minds and hearts even in troubled times. St. Paul had a thorn in the flesh. We are not quite sure what afflicted him. He could have turned to cynicism and sarcasm. Instead St. Paul turned to God’s grace.
When we receive Holy Communion, pray for God’s grace. All of us possess thorns in our flesh. How we face these thorns will decide how many times a day we witness the mighty deeds of the Lord.
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.