They couldn’t believe what they were witnessing. Here was the carpenter’s son holding forth in the synagogue, preaching as if he were a rabbi, instructing as if he considered himself an expert.
But they knew who he was. They knew his family. They knew his father’s carpenter’s shop. He was an ordinary Nazarene, one of their own. So where did he get all this wisdom? How could he talk with such authority? Who did he think he was, anyway, to come home, acting like some big shot?
So they wouldn’t – couldn’t – accept him. They saw him only as the boy next door. Filled with envy and incredulity, they refused to see who he really was. His neighbours should have known that God was working through Jesus in a special way, that there was something unique and different about this extraordinary young man. But familiarity breeds contempt. They couldn’t see past their expectations and prejudices. They were unable to see God’s presence in the ordinary and the familiar. Jesus had no choice but to walk away
Pray for the courage to oppose wrongdoing or discrimination wherever you see it. Pray for the courage to witness to the Good News without fear as Jesus did.
One of the success stories of the 2010s was the taxi firm Uber. Founded in California in 2009, the ride-sharing start-up, with its userfriendly app and cheap fares, was a darling of the tech industry with a huge valuation on Wall Street.
In December 2016, a software engineer called Susan Fowler quit her job at Uber. Early the following year, she wrote an explosive blog about her time with the firm. She described how she was harassed at Uber, starting with her first day on a new team. When she complained, her bosses ignored her or tried to intimidate her. Fowler’s allegations exposed a widespread culture of harassment at Uber. Its chief executive was forced to resign, its value fell, and the broader tech industry had to confront its woeful history of discrimination against women and minorities.
Susan Fowler helped ignite the MeToo movement, which highlights sexual harassment of women in the workplace. The culture of abuse of power and white male supremacy is so pervasive that many people are unable or unwilling to see it. Some months ago, the head of the United Nations declared that gender inequality and discrimination against women is the “one overwhelming injustice across the globe – an abuse that is crying out for attention. Everywhere women are worse off than men, simply because they are women.” Women are far more likely to be sexually assaulted, discriminated against, or aborted, simply because of their gender. A glaring injustice that many ignore or refuse to see.
At Uber, many people saw the way Susan Fowler was treated but they looked away. They refused to see. They didn’t want to be involved. It can happen with us too. Even with perfectly good eyes, we can fail to see, or be oblivious to, so much of what is happening around us. We can be blind.
Blindness takes many forms. We can be so busy today that we simply don’t have time to step back, look around, take note. Busyness prevents us from taking a closer look. We can be so caught up in the regular routine of life, so stuck in our ways, that we fail to notice the signs of the times. Oblivious to the Holy Spirit at work in us and around us, we end up blinkered.
Or, like Jesus’ townspeople, we can stubbornly refuse to see what is happening right in front of us, refuse to accept the evidence of our eyes – such as the opioid crisis, for example, or the problem of homelessness, or the family member or colleague in distress. Or the judgemental way we look down on the newcomer, the foreigner, the refugee.
We can refuse to acknowledge the challenges confronting our Church or claim they are none of our business. Sometimes it’s easier to be wilfully blind rather than face up to reality, to stay in the darkness rather than see with new eyes. But the Christian is called to see as Jesus sees and then always to respond, with courage, conviction and love.
- To be a prophet is to witness to the Gospel at all times.
- Being a prophet is part and parcel of being a Christian.
The Christian is always tuned in to the signs of the times.
Make a conscious effort to be more alert to what is happening around you. Are there any ways in which you are blind?