I have to preface this reflection by saying that I take exception to the words of the people who are disparaging Jesus in today’s Gospel reading.
Before I got into my present line of work I was a carpenter and I am the son of a carpenter. I don’t think my ability to drive a nail into a piece of wood has impaired my wisdom in the least. In fact my experience working in the mud and noise of construction sites before I took my place in the rectory office was probably at least as formative as my time in the seminary, especially when it comes to taking care of those pesky leaks in the roof of the Church.
But impressions that we have of people are not easily given up. Having grown up with Jesus many of his friends and acquaintances would not be able to readily accept this new image that Jesus was portraying, that of a radical thinker, the wandering mystic, the healer.
We like to place our life experiences in boxes so that they can be more easily understood. We do that with people as well. That is why we use titles like left or right, liberal or conservative, orthodox or heretic. Often it takes no more than a few words out of someone’s mouth, or even just the way they are dressed for us to slip them neatly into one of our boxes that we have neatly fashioned.
While such processes do help us cope with a world that is full of complexity there is a serious problem that arises when we do this with one another. The boxes we uses keep us from hearing what is actually being said. Our boxes filter everything so that it seems to be what we have already heard a thousand times before when in fact it is really distorting whatever truth and knowledge that might really be good for us to hear.
As Jesus enters his hometown he has a great message of love and mercy, but the people are not willing to hear it because they have already made up their minds about him. They turn off because they can’t believe that anyone that they grew up with would have anything valuable to say and in doing so they miss out on the Good News.
Part of the work of conversion is tearing apart our boxes and allowing our self to see God and others in new ways. Today as you meet people at your school or place of work try to to let go of your labels and hear what they are really saying. You might find that you have more in common with them than you thought or, better yet, they may offer insights that will help you become an even better person than you are right now.