“CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME OUT OF GALILEE?” (Jn 7:40-53): 08 March 2008 (Saturday)
When I was a shy and skinny six-year old kid in Kindergarten, my teacher had this brilliant idea of putting up a play called “Prince Charming and Cinderella”–in Mandarin! Thankfully, no dialogue had to be memorized since all the lines had been pre-recorded. All we kids had to do was run around and pretend we were speaking the lines (Think “Meteor Garden” or “Jewel in the Palace” and you get the picture).
All the kids were auditioned, and I was cast as the soldier who brings in Cinderella’s shoe. It was just a bit role, but I was overjoyed because I was really quite shy and had a pretty bad case of stage fright. But my mother consoled me saying that without me, Prince Charming would never find Cinderella!
We had weeks of rehearsals, but on the last week, while rehearsing Prince Charming do the waltz with Cinderella, my teacher threw up her hands in exasperation. The girl playing Cinderella burst into tears because her toes had turned black and blue from Prince Charming stepping all over them. My teacher looked around the room in desperation, saw me sitting in one corner, and–to my horror and to the delight of my (stage) mother–re-cast me as Prince Charming!
Who knows what my teacher saw in that shy and skinny six-year old boy? Although I was terrified all throughout the performance, all I can say is that Cinderella didn’t go home limping that night!
I remembered that experience when I was thinking about today’s gospel reading. If you read between its lines, the passage is one of the funniest I’ve read. The people are talking about Christ, and they keep raising their collective eyebrows because he’s from Galilee, and no one believes that the Messiah–or any prophet–will ever come from there. You see, in those days Galileans (like our Lord) were considered “hicks”–i.e., unsophisticated country people. The equivalent in our colloquial language today would be “promdi” (“from the province”). In fact, there is a passage somewhere in the gospels where the Jews ridicule the disciples’ thick Galilean accents. In another passage, referring to Jesus, people ask rhetorically, “Can anything good come out of Galilee?”
And with that, they dismiss Jesus with a contemptuous wave of their hand and walk away from the promised Messiah!
How many times have we missed out on the Lord in the same way simply because we expected him to be somewhere else? We have our preconceived notions of where he should be, but the problem is, he is a God of Surprises, who, to quote a popular 70s song about love, “comes from the most unexpected places.” If we insist on keeping our labels of him, chances are, we will lose him altogether. Ours, after all, is a pretty subversive God who refuses to be boxed in.
That’s exactly what happened to the Jews. They expected the Messiah to be a political and perhaps military leader who would deliver them from Rome, and such a great man would certainly never emerge from a backward country like Galilee. Because of their labels and expectations, they looked down on all things Galilean, and they didn’t recognize the very Christ who himself stood right before them asking to be recognized. All because they failed to see beyond Galilee.
Something similar happens to us all the time. When we allow ourselves to look down on others because of their appearances, their background, or their past, when we reduce others to labels and boxes, we will fail to see the good in them–and miss out on recognizing the Christ in them. All because we fail to see beyond Galilee as we ask ourselves, “Can anything good come out of them?”
The same thing applies to ourselves too. When we look down on ourselves and box ourselves in, pinning a label on us because of past mistakes or sins, we will also never be able to see the good in us and we will certainly never recognize the Christ in us. Many times we chain ourselves to the ground and keep ourselves from flight because deep inside us we secretly believe that nothing good will ever come out of ourselves. Again it’s because we fail to see beyond our own Galilees.
I think something like that happened to me many years ago. Before my kindergarten teacher pulled me out of the wings to promote me from a bit player, I never thought anything good would come out of my Galilee. But that’s been the story of my life since then–and I suspect, everyone’s life. It often takes other people to see the good in us before we see it and believe it ourselves.
Looking beyond Galilee can do wonders. I was just supposed to deliver a shoe, but thanks to my kindergarten teacher, I got to dance with Cinderella.
Here’s a Quick Question for you: “Have you ever experienced someone taking one look at you and recognizing the good (or the Christ in you) when all along you had no idea about what was there?” Think about it, and share a thought, a feeling, or a question.
(image: Prince Charming and Cinderella)