“Is this not the son of Joseph?” Those words came from people in the synagogue in Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus. They could not believe what they were hearing from Jesus because they had known Jesus to be the son of Joseph.

In Genesis 1:26, God said. “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” In the next chapter (Genesis 2:19ff), God gave human beings the opportunity to express that dominion/rule over other creatures, but not over fellow human beings. Adam expressed this dominion by giving names to the birds of the sky, and to the animals on land. When you are able to name a person or a thing, you have control over that person or thing. So, name is powerful, name tells us something about the destiny and about the limitations of a person or a thing. But there is an exception here, there is a limitation to this dominion. Even though human beings are creatures of God, there is something that makes them different from other creatures: they were created in the image and likeness of God. So, we do not have what it takes to name another human being to the extent of limiting that human being or deciding the destiny of that human being, since we cannot limit God, in whose image human beings were created. Such power belongs only to God, but unfortunately, some human beings continue to struggle to have that extra power to name people and to decide their destiny, to put people in boxes and to place limits around them.

In families, some people gather and give a name to another family member and then decide that such a person must not act outside the name they have given to that person. When we do that, we deny ourselves of the extra things such people or persons could have done for us. Sometimes in families, the one we name as a no-good ends up becoming the savior of the family. Sometimes, in a class, people may look at a person as the most unintelligent in their class, but at the end, the one who is seen as an intellectual no-good ends up becoming an employer to the most intelligent in that class.

Going back to today’s gospel passage, Jesus Christ was in the synagogue in his hometown, they heard him and instead of giving room for him to express himself, those in the synagogue asked, “Is that not the son of Joseph?” They gave him a name, they limited him to being a son of Joseph, unknown to them that he was God himself. Apart from Jesus being God himself, each human being has been created in the image and likeness of God, and so, if we cannot limit God, we cannot limit one who was created in the image and likeness of God. Because they placed him in a box, because they limited him, he would not perform miracles there in Nazareth, he had to move to the next town, Capernaum, where he delivered a man who was possessed, healed those who were sick, and performed many other miracles.

History continues to teach more on why we must not place anyone in a box, but we keep failing to learn. What comes to your mind today when you hear of Albert Einstein? He is one of the greatest scientists ever. But how did he begin? At the age of 3, he was barely learning how to speak. He hated going to school. At the age of 15, he dropped out of school. At the age of 16, he wrote an entrance examination to the Polytechnic institute in Zurich and he failed. Today, he is not remembered for his failures but for his scientific innovations.

Have you ever been to Disneyland? Have you ever been to Disneyworld?  Have you ever watched any of the Disney movies? What comes to your mind when you hear of Disney today? For me, I think of creativity. How did he begin? In his first attempt of a career, Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper company because they said he was lacking in creativity. But because he did not give up, today, his name is synonymous with creativity.

In sports, today when you hear of Michael Jordan, you think of basketball. But when he made his first attempt of joining a team, he was rejected because they felt he lacked the proper height and skill. But Michael Jordan did not give up, he went and kept practicing until finally, he found his way into basketball and now his name is synonymous with basketball. Sharing his story at a point, he said that while practicing, he would get tired, he would think of giving up, but he would close his eyes and visualize the list of those in the team without seeing his name there, and that would motive him until he made it up there. Imagine a world where each one of us refuses to be limited by the boundaries people place around us. Imagine how better the world would be. From today’s gospel passage, we are all encouraged to stop limiting people and we must reject all limitations placed around us, for each one of us is God’s image, and God cannot be placed in a box. Let us take the word “impossible” out of our vocabularies because, everything is usually impossible until someone does it. Let us pray to God to grant us the grace to become channels of his blessings and positive surprises to all those we come in contact with, and may God bring us in contact with those through whom he wants to bless us and to positively surprise us, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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