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Closed Minds

The Super Bowl happens next Sunday, and for those who care, we have already picked our favorites.  Although I must say the Panthers look like the favorites partly because of their quarterback, Cam Newton.  I have never cared for Cam Newton even during his days at Auburn.  As someone said, he seemed to have an ego a mile long.  Even so, others are talking about how much he gives back to the community and how friendly he is with the fans.  In any case I'm starting to have a slight change of mind about Cam.

What I have just related is a description of a closed mind.  I closed my mind against Cam Newton because he did not meet my criteria.  Sports, as well as politics, bring out our competitive nature.  We choose a certain team, usually the home team, because its gives a boost to our ego, collective and personal.  It makes me feel better. But as the ad says, "a mind is a terrible thing to waste", but a closed mind is a truly dangerous thing.

Which brings me to the Gospel today.  At first Jesus' oration is pleasing to his hometown audience but soon the feeling shifts from acceptance to hostility.  Jesus perceives that the hometown crowd likes his talk because they figure this son of Joseph can bring some benefits to Nazareth after all talk of his miracles has gotten around.  Jesus senses that this is the source of their approval; they will put up a sign on the city limits, "home of Jesus, miracle worker".  And the miracles will remain here.

Jesus challenges the Nazarenes based on a part of their tradition that is not the most popular but part of their tradition nonetheless.  He reminds them that they were not chosen by God to be a closed society but rather to share their divine blessing.  And so he mentions two gentiles who were blessed by two prophets of old, Elijah and his protégé, Elisha.  When Jesus suggests that their blessings would be shared by the Gentiles, the Nazarenes explode in rage and attempted murder.  Ask any politician who is trying to curry favor to win votes what happens if he tells his base anything else than what they want to hear.

Tribalism, isolationism, rejection of those who differ from us run off of the fuel of anger and fear.  Anger and fear do not lead to wise decisions.  Acting on our anger and fear usually lead to death and destruction.  Resentment and distrust are corrosive acids eating at our souls.

Our Catholic faith is bigger than that; our Catholic faith is just what its name says:  We are Catholic; we embrace the entire world and its entire people.  We say that every time we pray the Eucharistic prayer. That is the good news of the Gospel, fear and anger will not rule our souls, rather he who preached "do not be afraid" will lead us to our better and bigger selves.  Our Catholic faith rests on him whose grace makes all things possible, even overcoming our fear and anger.  Jesus will pass through the hands of his native townsmen unharmed but he rises from the anger and fear that crucified him so that his Gospel about the Good Samaritan would be preached throughout the world:  Who is my neighbor?  The next person you meet.

If you are going to put anything on your sign on the city limits, put this:  If I speak or act without love, I am simply a noisy gong and it will do me no good.  Love is not resentful, is never boastful, everything but love comes to an end. In short there are three things that last:  faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.

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