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“No Prophets Allowed” by Melanie Blaszczak, Fiat Ventures

Diocese of Trenton Mission Jersey 2017

 

“No Prophets Allowed” by Melanie Blaszczak, Fiat Ventures

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 It’s a hot, humid day and you’re with a whole group of teens travelling to a place you have never been before. You’re driving for hours and wondering to yourself what is this week going to be like. When you finally arrive at your destination and stretch after sitting in a van for what feels like forever, you put your bags down and take a look at your accommodations. This is no five-star hotel, but rather a hot classroom with wall-to-wall air mattresses. But at least there are showers! As long as you like waiting in line and standing under a frigid trickle of water trying to rinse the shampoo out of your hair. The food is…let’s just say not quite like Mom’s cooking.  And don’t even get me started on the coffee.

Why would anyone put up with all that for a week?  Well if you haven’t guessed by now, what I am describing it is a summer mission trip. Your mission is to serve a town miles and miles away from your home through charitable acts of service like painting, weeding, cleaning, gardening; you get the picture!

As the days pass by, you find that all those things that I described don’t seem to matter as much; you actually get used to sleeping on your air mattress and the coffee isn’t so bad after all…with enough cream and sugar that is. The fact that you get to serve someone less fortunate for the entire week gives you a new perspective. And this makes you want to be a better person. You find that you never worked this hard for someone else, well, ever! You hear some other teens comment that they never help out at home around the house, but all of a sudden they find themselves sweeping, dusting, mopping, and doing yard work for complete strangers.  You wonder why this is…that we can be so eager to love and serve strangers rather than our own families. As you’re hopping in the van at the end of this fulfilling week of service, one of the adult leaders says, “Now we’re heading back to the real mission field. Our friends, families, and neighbors need to experience God’s love through us just as much as the people this week.” “Easier said than done,” you think to yourself.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we see Jesus come back to his “native place,” where he lived and grew up. What should be a reunion of sorts quickly becomes a disappointment for Jesus. You would think Jesus’ friends and neighbors would have received his message with open hearts, and been first in line to follow him. Jesus is actually “amazed at their lack of faith.” Shouldn’t someone you know and love be the first person you trust?

Jesus notes that “a prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” He recognizes that sometimes when we have a powerful experience on a retreat or a service trip and are changed for the better, our family and friends think back to the way we were before.  “I know Tim. I know his shortcomings and his sins (I was there for some of them!). Now he thinks he’s different? Sure, Tim, let’s see how long that lasts.”

What he is saying that it is so easy to love and serve a stranger but when it comes to your own family and friends, that same love and service gets harder to give. It might be awkward for us, and it might not be received the same way as those who don’t already know us. It was so much easier for Jesus to go out and proclaim God’s Gospel message to people in the surrounding towns just like it is so much easier for us to serve strangers on mission trips. But when we try to bring that love of Christ back home with us, we’re not always accepted and welcomed in the same way.

The bottom line is that our love and service should be extended to everyone, and in this Sunday’s Gospel, God is challenging each one of us to do just that. God is calling us to love and serve the people right in front of us like our family even if they get on our nerves sometimes. Imagine how different the Gospel would be if the townspeople saw past their history with Jesus the Carpenter and opened their eyes to him as the Christ, the Son of God?

Whether you’ve been on a retreat or a mission trip or not, it’s harder for all of us to love those closest to us. Let’s focus on that this week. Who in your family do you not feel as close to these days? Do something to serve them.  Talk to a neighbor when you see each other in the driveway getting the mail or bringing in groceries.  Make your “native place” your new mission field, and just like Jesus, maybe you’ll still be able to reach at least a few people. May the Lord continually be inspiring us through the help of the Holy Spirit to be better brothers and sisters in Christ.

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