This Sunday’s Gospel has Jesus returning to his home village, Nazareth and the people of the village “took offence at him” (v3).
Whenever I read this story in Mark’s Gospel, I am reminded of a most intriguing novel I read some years ago.
The novel is by the Irish author and playwright Brinsley MacNamara and is titled, The Valley of the Squinting Windows.
Written in 1918, the novel is set in the fictional village of Garradrimna, in central Ireland where everyone is interested in everyone else’s business and wishes them to fail.
Gossip and finger-pointing are rife. [The Valley of the Squinting Windows, so enraged the Westmeath community in which MacNamara lived that the book was publicly burned, its author humiliated and his father, the local schoolteacher, boycotted and driven into exile.]
The novel exposed the bitter cruelty of village morality.
The smaller the society, the more controlling this narrow spirit.
“Beneath the charm of the rural town or village, there often lurks a lethal intolerance.”
People who have known you all your life see you as the child you were, even when you are a middle-aged man or woman.
They see where you came from, and they remember all your youthful mistakes.
If they are villagers, they also want to make sure you are not getting above yourself; “who does he think he is?” Nazareth was such a place.”
He is the carpenter’s son surely?!”
The Gospel story records the villagers as “being astounded.” However, this was not ‘astonishment’, rather ‘disbelief. ‘
The terrible fact is that it works!
It tied Jesus’ hands: “he could work no miracles there,” wrote Mark.
Matthew says, “He did not work many miracles there” (13:58), making it look more like a decision on Jesus’ part.
Mark’s version is gutsier and more tragic, and it makes you think more.
It is a frightful thought that we have the ability to prevent miracles, to tie the Lord’s hands…. How many miracles have I prevented in my life? Or this week?
Why are my wife and children so quiet?
Or, have I a way of making my husband feel so bad that everything he might do or say is condemned in advance?
As a schoolteacher to say to a growing, enquiring mind, ‘that is not right’ might well stop the child in their tracks for years.
God prevent that I should be a miracle-stopper!
The word “ but” might well be the biggest miracle stopper we possess!