“We have never seen anything like this.”
That statement, from today’s Gospel reading, can be taken in a at least a couple of different ways. It could be an expression of amazement: the people were seeing something new in Jesus and found it to be astonishingly wonderful. “We have never seen anything like this!” That’s almost too much to hope for from them, unfortunately, so what they probably meant was something much different. They probably meant, we have never seen anything like this, and since it’s not what we are used to, we dislike it, we distrust it and refuse to go there. “We have never seen anything like this. Harumph!”
What’s sad about that is that we react that way too sometimes, don’t we? The old joke is that the last seven words of the Church will be, “we’ve never done it that way before.” If someone challenges us in new ways, we have a tendency to automatically assume it’s wrong. People tend often to distrust anything that puts them outside their comfort zones.
And Jesus was dragging people out of their comfort zones all the time. The scribes, Pharisees, and religious leaders all distrusted him because he hit them right where they lived. He challenged them to new ways of thinking and praying and fasting and giving and even loving. He showed them a Messiah that was much different than anything they ever expected. And so they dismissed him: “We have never seen anything like this.”
But it cannot be so for us. Jesus still challenges us today, beaconing us out of our comfort zones, challenging us to live for God and for others, and to reach out and live the Gospel with wild abandon. Will we dismiss him and his message too? Or will we say with eager expectation: “We have never seen anything like this!” – with eyes wide open to see where he will lead us next?