July 5, 2009


Where did this man get all this? – Mark 6: 2

When we think we know someone, when we think we’ve got them all figured out, we tend to put them in a box. Sometimes we conform to the box others have put us in for the sake of popularity, of fitting in. But deep down we know that we are more than people think, & sometimes it breaks out. We do a strikingly wicked or heroic deed to challenge other’s assessments & force them to say, “We never knew you had it in you.”

Popular fiction is full of box-breaking precisely because it caters to our secret desire to be more than what people think of us. So Clark Kent , boxed by everyone as the mild-mannered reporter, breaks free & literally soars. No one thinks dirty Cinderella could become a shining princess, nor the ugly duckling an elegant swan. We love these stories because the people in them have done what we find ourselves powerless to do: break out of the box & show people that there really is more to us than they think.

Yet the gospels repeatedly tell us that we are more then we show, & that we are called to be more than people think, to be, in fact, exactly as God thinks, as God see us. Real life offers us examples. Womanizing Thomas à Becket was the carousing & drinking companion of the future King Henry, but when he became Archbishop of Canterbury he wound up defending the Church against Henry & gave his life for it. Henry never thought he had it in him.

Who would have thought that a spoiled, dissolute kid, baptized Giovanni de Bernadone, running with his rat pack, would break rank, as it were; that he would heed a dream in which a voice told him to “serve the Master, not the man,” a dream that slowly got to him & made his old life of partying less & less attractive until one day, breaking out of his playboy image, he got off his horse & embraced a leper? He then went home, rejected his inheritance & walked away forever from his riches to become Francis of Assisi. And his shocked friends thought they knew him.

There is in each of us an authentic call to holiness, to quiet heroism. We have it in us. One of these days we must walk away from the routine sins, the worship of consumerism & celebrity, the indifferent life, & our gray, lackluster spiritual existence. We have to answer that call to embrace in a very public way the truism that we really do not live by bread alone; that we are called to live beyond the box, do the unexpected, express the transcendence within us, & allow others to do the same.

The gospel message reminds us that we are always more than people think. We are, in fact, exactly what God thinks. We must take the step to let God’s assessment of us show. If it causes our friends & relatives to wonder, so much the better. AMEN!