A number of years ago I heard an amusing story. Kris and Dave were newly married, and like most newly married couples were still learning things about each other. One evening as they were preparing dinner, Dave noticed that Kris was cutting the ends off the canned ham they were making for dinner. Not being a chef, Dave asked her why she did that, and Kris said, “Because that is the way my mother always did it.” For some reason, this struck Dave as odd and the next time his mother-in-law was over he asked her why she cut the ends off canned hams before cooking them. His mother-in-law said, “Because that is way my mother always did it.” Dave, being rather obsessive, now really wanted to know the reason for cutting the ends off canned hams before cooking them, so he called his wife’s grandmother. She said, “Because that was the only way I could get it to fit into the baking pan that I had.”
It can be strange how family customs and traditions begin. Grandma clearly had a logical reason for cutting the end off the ham; her daughter and granddaughter didn’t, but they did it any way. Not all family traditions or customs are so innocent or amusing.
Change is often a difficult thing for most people. Sometimes our families can be blinded by assumptions, traditions, or apathy from seeing the potential in one of their own. They can be resistant to change and often prefer to remain in the dark rather than change. It is hard to accept the differences in their families – whether it is a disability, the choice of a career or a spouse.
We see some of this resistance to change in both our first reading and in today’s Gospel. David was Jesse’s eighth son. For the Jewish people, the number seven was seen as a sign of perfection, so David was the “extra” or “oops” child. There would have been very low expectations for the eighth child, so it was not surprising that he was not even invited to the banquet that his father, Jesse, held for Samuel the prophet. David was just sent to take carry of the sheep.
Jesse realized that Samuel had come, at the Lord’s command, to anoint the next King of Israel. Naturally Jesse thought it would be his oldest son, Eliab, who would be selected. Even Samuel when he saw Eliab thought he had a noble quality about him. Yet the Lord said “No, not him.” Just imagine Jesse’s disappointment that his oldest son was rejected, and that disappointment only grew more profound when the next six sons were also rejected. What else did he have to offer? Only David remained, but what could really come from him? It was difficult for Jesse, his seven older sons, and even Samuel to get past their expectations.
Then in the Gospel we have the unnamed blind man. His parents never thought that he could amount to much. They were resigned to the fact that they would have to take care of him for the rest of their lives, and that he would have to rely of the charity of others for his support. Then one day they hear that their son has been miraculously healed. You would think that they would be overjoyed. That they would be jumping up and down in happiness for their son, and with tears of joy in their eyes.
However, in the Gospel they are clearly not overjoyed by this news. Of course part of the reason is that they were being brought before the Jewish leaders. The healing took place on a Sabbath, so they were afraid that they might be accused of violating the Law of Moses. They also must have known that the Jewish leaders were out to get Jesus, so they did not want to be seen as one of Jesus’ disciples, which their son was clearly acting like by telling everyone what Jesus had done for him. But just a troubling for them was that they were being asked to change the way they saw their son. Even though it was a good thing that their son was now able to see, it was going to mean that they would also have to change, and as I said before, no one likes change.
We are all members of God’s family, and as such we are all called to love with God’s heart, to see one anther with God’s eyes, and to be open to the great things that our spiritual brothers and sisters are capable of. We have to resist the temptation to keep those around us bound by our assumptions about them. We have to resist the temptation to try and keep people in our families – even our parish family – from growing and changing just because it challenges our comfort level, habits, or dysfunctions.
This week let us pray that our families will be open to the work of God as they learn to love and accept one another, seeing one another’s gifts and abilities as a reflection of the love of Christ.