Saturday, July 04, 2009

Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

One of the most amazing, and as it happens funniest things I heard said about Michael Jackson in this past week was said by his father. ‘If only,’ he said, ‘he’d been recognised in his lifetime.’ Somehow I don’t think Michael Jackson is one of those people who will only be appreciated by posterity. He got quite enough fame - and infamy - while he was alive.

But fame is a very fickle thing. Great figures of history - as we reckon them - were not necessarily great in their own time. Shakespeare was one playwright amongst many. Van Gogh died in poverty. The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins was unknown in his lifetime. The poetry of Wilfrid Owen too was mostly published after his death. Many popular musicians have gained great fame, greater fame after their deaths than in their lives.

And it works the other way too. There are composers, authors, political figures who were giant while they were alive, but who are now barely remembered.

And of course, even in life that is true of the famous. Those who knew famous people before they were famous are often able to say how unremarkable they were. Ordinary. Unassuming.

In today’s Gospel it is something of this which Jesus experiences. “A prophet is only despised in his own country” he remarks.  His own people lacked faith. They knew him a little too well. He was no one great, they said, no one extraordinary. What on earth is all this we have heard about him? He is one of us. The carpenter. The son of Mary. One of us.

And of course, without realising it they hit the nail on the head. He is one of us. He works with us. He lives with us. He shares our sorrows and our joys. He is part of our families, part of our lives.

And we may lack faith not - like the people of Nazareth - if we cannot see beyond his ordinariness - but if we fail to realise that he is so close. Too often we live our lives fully in ignorance that he is near to us, alongside us. We live, and make choices, express our frustration and our hopes hardly aware that we are never alone. Yet God shares and touches and embraces our lives. The one who made everything, who made us, is one of us. He is with us.


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