Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
I got a call this week from an old friend who is greatly concerned about another mutual friend of ours. His behavior's been a bit strange lately, and he's been shutting people out of his life. "I've tried talking to him about some of the problems, but he just runs away. What should I do?" my friend asked.
What do you do, indeed? It's a normal reaction to be angry at people who try to give well-meaning advice. "How dare they tell me what to do?" "They don't understand me and my situation!" I imagine it's a lot like both of the situations in today's scriptures. In today's first reading (Jeremiah 26:1-9), God asks Jeremiah to prophesy, so that the people will turn away from their sins. But instead of repenting, the people get defensive and turn on the messenger of the unwelcome news.
Today's gospel passage (Matthew 13:54-58) is similar: Jesus returns to his hometown, telling the same message he's been telling all along. But where in other towns, the people have been gladly hearing the message, in Nazareth, they're booing him. The people know him too well; they've seen him grow up, and so they think he can't possibly have anything to tell them.
It's harder, in many ways, to care for people we know well, exactly because we know their faults too, and we see all the things they do wrong (in our eyes) too. "They're certainly not perfect," we think. "How dare they tell me what to do?"
The message from today's scriptures tries to move us away from holding on so tightly to our own defensiveness and our sense of righteousness about other people. We are asked to consider that others may well better knowledge of us than we do of ourselves. Maybe it is even our best friends who know us well enough to see some of the underlying problems.
I can hear the rebuttal now: "What about all the times when our friends have been wrong about us?"
True. But I think all that God asks of us in these passages is to be open to the possibility that we might be wrong too. Our first thought ought not to be, "How dare they?" but rather, "Hmmm. Let me think about that a bit more seriously. Let me at least think about the fact that I am just as fallible as my human friends are. That means sometimes I'm right, and sometimes they are, and sometimes neither of us are right."
So today, let us pray for the grace to be willing to be wrong - and in doing so, potentially open ourselves up for greater healing and happiness.