17th Friday of Ordinary Time
‘Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? And they took offense at him. The Greek for taking offense is scandalized. The King James Version has an interesting translation of this – they were snared in him. His very ordinary circumstances, his humble origins were like a net that trapped them. His mighty deeds, His wisdom – they could see. But they could not reconcile these with him being one of them. They probably believed in the popular saying – can anything good come from Nazareth?
The problem for them and for us is that Jesus is not a star. He does not dazzle us and force our faith in Him. He is like an icon. There is a mysterious quality of the icon that can draw us in gently but we can always come to ourselves with a start, go back to our hermeneutic of suspicion and pull back in the nick of time before we get too enmeshed in belief. We want the razzle dazzle of the star. We do not want love and faith to sneak up on us because we will lose control.
Our natural tendency is to picture ourselves soaring to the Absolute on our eject seat – out of the messiness of history. The absolute for us is absolute because it is serenely detached from the rumble tumble of intractable circumstances that we cannot think away. So when the Absolute comes to us and burrows deep into our history – so deep that it is scandalously particular. What do we do? We spit on it, we curse it, we nail it to the cross and get rid of this affront to our idea of Absolute.
The paradox is that if God is to transform the world and not just offer each of us an eject seat – then God must become scandalously particular and local so that from the local He can begin gathering up the cosmos. The recapitulation of all history begins from a particular point in time and space. This is our faith. But for this we need to be converted from our desire to be dazzled, from our desire for a star. Jesus is not a star. He is an icon of God, the sacrament of God.