Change for the Better

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

July 4, 2021 – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 6:1-6

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He left as the son of Joseph. He returned as the son of God. He had changed in their eyes. And his former neighbors didn’t like this. But that’s not so surprising. Many of us are uncomfortable with change, especially when it’s with people we thought we knew.

That is the reaction which is at the heart of today’s gospel. Jesus grew up in the relatively small village called Nazareth. It was the kind of place where everyone knew everyone who lived there. They had formed opinions of each other. Jesus had left those familiar surroundings to begin his public life. We are not given exact ages, but he was gone long enough to have had new experiences, and – as was noted – he had changed.

No doubt, he expected to be received with respect as he spoke about the scriptures that were read in the synagogue upon his return. But that didn’t happen. They wanted his words to match their expectations. They didn’t want something new. They would be quite content to hear what they already believed. Not a challenge to their conventional views. But that was not the way Jesus operated. He wanted them to know that things were changing. In fact, change had already begun. And he was part of that change.

Accepting change is often difficult. Take those of us who are parents. We personally perceive the many changes that happen over the years in our children. Good parents will remain supportive year after year. This would be in contrast to the people of Nazareth in today’s gospel. They wanted Jesus to stay the same as he was as a young boy.

A similar comment can be made about married couples. Wives and husbands also change over the years. I recall with a smile a conversation supposedly between a couple married many years. The husband complains, “You don’t bake bread like my mother did,” To which she responds, “And you don’t make dough like my dad did.” This exchange is about expectations … and reality.

Genuine love rests on the realized present, not on the long-gone past. It not only accepts the positive changes that happen in people, but also welcomes them. This is how families endure the test of time. It is also the key to how friendships endure, and how communities survive the inevitable changes that come through time. Recall the wise words of the esteemed Catholic theologian, Saint John Henry Newman. “To live is to change and to change often is to become more perfect.”

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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