Jesus' story is a human story. Although He lived two thousand years ago in a culture and climate different from ours, His story is our shared human story.
Who has not suffered discrimination because of our family history, education, status, age, profession, social class, ethnicity, or simply the color of our skin? Jesus was discriminated against too.
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, no stranger to being discriminated against, often tells the story about a girl and a balloon seller in this context. The child is intrigued as she watches the balloon man occasionally release a balloon and let it float into the sky to attract some attention to his wares. Every now and then, a balloon goes up into the sky—blue, red, green, white, black, and yellow. "Excuse me, sir," says the child. "How come when you let go of a balloon of any color, it always floats up into the sky?" The man replies, "Love, it's not the color of the balloon that matters. It's the stuff inside."
In today's Gospel, Nathanael disregards Jesus because of the insignificance of the town Jesus came from. Philip, a new disciple of Jesus, initially tried to convince Nathaniel that he had found the Messiah. But Nathanial was extremely skeptical. He knew Nazareth was a relatively isolated village with a population of less than two hundred. He did not like Nazareth and did not wish to associate with anyone from it.
Nathaniel was looking at the outside. When he accepted Philip's invitation, he then saw what had come from the inside. Jesus already knew him, called him by name, and told him he had seen him under the fig tree. Nathaniel was convinced and cried out, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." He had seen the good that came out of Nazareth.
Jesus's experience with discrimination did not end with Nathaniel's recognition of Him as the Son of God. As He continued His ministry, He was rejected by His own ethnic group and betrayed by those He held the closest. He was persecuted and eventually prosecuted for being Himself. He experienced physical pain on the outside. On the inside, He was still His Father's son—to those who believed and confessed, He promised a place in Paradise with Himself and His father.
"Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" By accepting Philip's invitation, Nathanael learned his answer: Yes! Nazareth has good gifts and even God. As he learns the Nazareth principle, he realizes that those people and situations he disdains and disregards at first may turn out to be the ones who will save him.
Can anything good come from your Nazareth?" My friend, what's your Nazareth? Can anything good come from your person, your place, your situation, or your sickness? Past mistakes? Broken family? Abusive past? Nagging failures? Yes! "Come and see" how Jesus does it! Believe that He will use someone to speak life and beauty to you today—watch for it!
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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.
Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.