The whole town was gathered… 04Feb2018

In a small town, everybody knows everybody else and everyone knows everyone else’s business. The city of Seattle does not qualify as a small town but our little Italian district in south Seattle—it was known as Garlic Gulch—was a small town in its own way. All the Italians knew each other and we easily recognized those who “did not belong.” Yes, there were communities of Swedes, Norwegians, Chinese, Jews, Africans, Japanese and Filipinos but, even though they were only a few miles from us, they were as distant to me as their mother countries were from our big city. I’m sure it was the same for them, as well. It’s the nature of small towns.

It was the same for Jesus. After all, whenever He left His home territory to travel up to Jerusalem, all along the way and in the big city as well was He not called a “Galilean?” Was it not Peter’s speech that gave him away as one who was from that norther region? We should not be surprised that Jesus’ reputation preceded Him in His travels. The essence of small towns and communities is a closeness that lends itself to total awareness of everything and Jesus was no ordinary figure. His fame spread everywhere (Mk. 1:28).

There is an upside and a downside to small towns and Jesus experienced both. It is difficult to find privacy in small towns and virtually impossible to hide. Jesus, too, found it difficult to “hide away” to spend time in prayer. Once His full identity was revealed at His baptism in the Jordon, His life was an open book but still, in His home town, He would always be known as the carpenter’s son.

Jesus does not resist or resent His public life. When many of us might seek the hidden realm of privacy, Jesus embraces His public life. He has a Gospel to preach and the Kingdom of God to announce. He declares this Himself in today’s Gospel: “For this purpose have I come.” Yes, there is a lesson here for each of us who has “ears to hear.”

Life can seem a drudgery at times as we hear Job declare in today’s first reading. We live in the most advanced nation in the world at a time when comfort is king but life still is not perfect as we may wish it to be. Where do we find hope and strength? In our small town, our parish community. St. Paul says, “I have made myself a slave to all… for the sake of the Gospel.” If I take up my cross and become a slave to others for the sake of the Gospel in my “small-town” parish, then, with Jesus I can say, “For this I have come.”

Deacon Richard


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