From a carpenter's son to a prophet of God

– Friday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time –

He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? … And they took offense at him. [Mt 13:54-55, 57]

In today’s gospel, we find the people of Jesus’ hometown readily admitting to his remarkable wisdom and mighty deeds. And yet, suggests Matthew, it was their familiarity with Jesus and his family that was a stumbling block to them (however, that this wasn’t simply a case of first century tall poppy syndrome, see Lk 4:16-13).

Something has obviously changed since his townsmen had last seen him: Jesus had left Nazareth as “the carpenter’s son” but had returned to it as “a prophet” (13:57). So what brought about this remarkable transformation? According to Luke, it was Jesus’ having overcome the devil’s temptations in the desert: “When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee …” (Lk 4:13-14).

Clearly, Jesus’ time of immense trial bore some remarkable fruit in him. And so it is with all those who are willing to carry their crosses. As he says in the Gospel of John: “Every branch that bears fruit [the Father] prunes to make it bear more fruit.” This is something to keep in mind when we are being sorely tempted or when we are experiencing pain or loss. Jesus is asking us to offer up everything to the Father – just as he himself did in the desert and on the cross –  while trusting in the wisdom and foresight of the divine Vinedresser. Of course, this is not an easy thing to do (or to hear, especially from someone who isn’t experiencing what we are experiencing), but it’s the way we can make sense of our suffering, by transforming our suffering and confusion into something redemptive.

Let us pray that, like Jesus, we will also emerge from periods of severe testing “filled with the power of the Spirit.”

by Mark Makowiecki

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