The following homily was given by Archbishop Peter A Comensoli at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday 7 July as part of the annual Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mass that marks the beginning of NAIDOC Week.

A prophet is only despised in his own country.’ Even today, these words of Jesus are still to be heard on the lips of many. When a string of loses occur in any sport, the otherwise visionary strategies of Coach X are quickly belittled by home supporters. He’s misreading things; she doesn’t know what to do. We need to sack him, replace her. And quite commonly, someone will pipe up in defence of the coach, saying, a prophet is not accepted on home ground. And the coach might want to lament, also like Jesus: they lack the faith.

As Jesus lamented over his own family and childhood friends, he spoke a truth that strikes at us, even today. Look at what the folk of his hometown were admitting about him. You’ve got a wisdom in your teaching. You’ve got power in your healing. Yet they could not see beyond the boy they grew up with, or the man who had been living among them in ordinary ways. That Jesus was now showing signs and wonders among others, but which they had not seen or understood, leads them to reject this ‘other’ Jesus among them.

Do we not have the same tendencies? Are we not also prone to a lack faith in those around us? Do we not push away when someone outstanding emerges from among us?

So many around Jesus could not see in him that the promised Messiah, the Christ, was one of them. They lacked faith, not because they did not see and hear what Jesus was doing and saying, but because they could not translate that into what they had longed for. They, perhaps, were caught up in a desire to look for the extraordinary person, someone who might marvel them. Instead, all they could see was the ordinary Jesus standing before them.

Jesus said of his neighbours, the problem is you lack faith. Faith is to both see and to then understand what is seen. Strikingly, children are the best at faith, not because they are ignorant, but because they are open. They see more than just the surface of things. They understand that the arms of their parents are the gift of protection. They know that the words spoken softly are the gift of love. Children see and hear, and from that learn what it means to trust, and not to trust. Faith is to trust in what we see and hear to be grace. The hometown folk could see the miracles and heed the teaching, but they were closed to understanding what these meant for them. They saw the surface, but not the depth; they couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

Jesus is still coming to our hometowns, and into our households. He is showing the gift of himself. We hear what he speaks, we eat what is him, we see his grace at work. Jesus is inviting us to know him as our Saviour, as the One through whom God is living and working in our lives. Believe.