Until recently, I had something of an indifferent attitude towards classical music. I didn’t hate it, but I wouldn’t have chosen to listen to it either. I would very much rather have listened to someone like Bryan Adams! But lately, I’m finding myself more appreciative of classical music. Perhaps it’s another sign of old age, or perhaps it’s the influence of one of my best friends that is finally winning me over. That friend, Fr Ben, is a friend from seminary. Himself a gifted musician, he’s always loved classical music and whenever I passed by his room in seminary some classical tunes would always be playing. I would yawn and shake my head.
And now? I’m finding myself fascinated with the lives of great composers. Beethoven, for example, had a rather awkward playing style and preferred to work at his own compositions rather than play the compositions of the classical artists of his day. Disapproving of his technique, his teacher called him “hopeless as a composer”. Today, however, many regard him as the greatest composer who ever lived. Rejection did not stop Beethoven.
This Sunday’s readings introduce Jesus as a prophet and explain how prophets and other messengers from God inevitably suffer rejection. The readings challenge us to face rejection and hardship with prophetic courage. The story of Jesus’ rejection by his own people is a story that we can identify with because it is a story that has happened to most of us. We might have experienced the pain of rejection caused by hurts, wounds, betrayal, divorce, abandonment, violated trust, trauma, neglect, or abuse in its various forms. Often our friends, families, or childhood companions fail to listen to, and refuse to accept, the words of love and encouragement that we offer to them. Let us see also the other side of the coin. How often do we discount God’s agents through prejudice? How often do we fail to see God’s image in them because of our own hardheartedness? We must realise that God’s power is always available to transform even the most unlikely people.
We can handle rejection with respect – respect for ourselves and respect for others. Our first reaction to rejection is often anger – anger at ourselves for assuming we deserve what we got or bitterness toward others who perpetuate the rejection. In the face of rejection, we should remind ourselves that rejection does not have to be a prediction of our future, and we must not let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rejection in the past need not be a predictor of rejection in the future.
Let’s not allow rejection to derail our dreams and instead choose to persist in following God’s Way, doing His Will. We need to learn from our rejections. We are not perfect, and we do not always get it right, but we need to keep coming back until we do get it right. Every rejection can be a lesson if we stay open to new possibilities and new opportunities. What can I do differently? How can I improve? What needs can I meet? Let us turn rejections to opportunities.