Almost a week ago, we read another version of this story in chapter seven of the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. Today we hear the more detailed version of the so-called “Temple Speech” of Jeremiah, the speech that almost cost him his life. The Israelites believed that as long as the Temple stood and as long as they performed the Temple rituals, they would be safe. So when Jeremiah brings word that the Temple is destined for destruction, they were so afraid that they sought to put Jeremiah to death. By reminding them that it was God who had prophesied the destruction of the Temple and not he, he was able to escape their plot.
In the Gospel, we find that the people are taking offense at Jesus’ words just as their ancestors had taken offense at Jeremiah’s words. They took offense because Jesus was not acting as they expected him to act. They knew him as the son of the carpenter. However, by assuming the role of teacher, he was stepping beyond their expectations. This was a social taboo in their culture. People of that time simply did not take on new roles. Jesus should act like a carpenter because his father was a carpenter. “Where did this man get such wisdom and such mighty deeds?” Their objection might not make sense to us, but we have to place ourselves in their situation to understand.
Even though we may not think in such terms, we also have certain expectations about God, expectations that are constantly being challenged. We are more comfortable when God acts the way we expect God to act. However, God’s ways are not our ways. We cannot expect God to conform to social conventions and to our expectations.
At the same time, we should also give thanks that God moves beyond our expectations. God’s sacrifice of his Son for our salvation is certainly far beyond any human effort. Our very salvation happened because our God is not who we expect God to be.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator