His Native Place by Rev. Paul Scalia
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house." So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Tucked away in a little room on the ground floor of the national Gallery of Art you will find a wonderful medieval sculpture called "Holy Kinship." It depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph - and our Lord's grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins. It shows His family to be much like any other. He has the bald uncle and the uncle with the funny beard. He has the aunts who look just like his mom (but not as pretty). He has cousins who are goofing off and ruining the family portrait.
When St. Mark tells us that our Lord "came to His native place" (Mk 6:1), he touches on this holy kinship. He identifies the town of our Lord's youth and family, where He grew up knowing His mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, uncles, aunts, etc. No, He did not have any brothers or sisters (at least not in the literal sense of having been born of the same mother). But He did have cousins so close they were like siblings.
Our Lord grew up in a family. That was His native place. He did not come down from heaven full grown. He actually lived in a family and with all the relatives in the town. We know nothing about those 30 years of His life. We know nothing because those years are unremarkable; because He lived in the village, among His relatives, in His family - as all the others did.
This explains why they could not accept Him on His return: "(M)any who heard His were astonished. They said, 'Where did this man get all this? ... Is He not the Carpenter, the Son of Mary?'" (Mk 6:2-3). They think it is all too much. They cannot bear to believe in Him as a great prophet, much less as God. They refuse to believe He is so familiar. "They took offense at Him" (Mk 6:3). Their astonishment and offense provide positive witness to the ordinariness and simplicity of our Lord's family. life. They cannot believe because His family life was so ordinary.
The whole encounter calls to mind the importance of the family. Our Lord sanctified family life by living family life. By those 30 years He endorsed the family as His first community, His native place. It is indeed the world's first community - willed by God at creation and chosen by God at the Incarnation. The family comes before every state and government - before every job, before every salary. It is there that we learn what it means to be human - to love, to pray, to work, to suffer, to forgive, to believe. Without the family, the individual, the society, the parish and the Church all suffer.
As the family in our society decays before our very eyes, the silence of our Lord's 30 years in Nazareth becomes more and more eloquent. He places Himself in the family; but our culture says that the family is somehow optional. Worse still, forces in our society want to redefine the family. Of course, if we change the definition of the family to suit ourselves it does not acquire new meaning - it ceases to have any meaning whatsoever.
The importance our Lord attached to the family should inspire us to defend it. We do not define this institution. God does. It is, in the end, not ours to manipulate and reconstruct to our liking. It is God's - in the order both of creation and of redemption. It is His native place - which He has entrusted to us for our good. Indeed, for our salvation: "The history of mankind, the history of salvation, passes by way of the family" (John Paul II).
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