Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

As I walked into Church today I went behind the altar as I usually do to make known my presence as a reader of the Word. I saw a priest I’d never seen before. I smiled and waved at him and he smiled and waved back.

It was not until he came out onto the altar did I realize he was, in fact, the local Bishop. I thought to myself, “No pressure at all Stephen. It’s only the Bishop you’ll do fine.” I did think it unusual that the Bishop would be casually saying an 11 O’Clock Mass in our Church without there being some sort of special event taking place.

The Gospel reading happened to be about a prophet being without honor in his own land. Jesus was met with nothing but contempt by the locals who knew him so the Gospel tells us he performed no miracles there. The Bishop described how “familiarity breeds contempt” and we tend to reject those of whom we are familiar with especially if they come from the poor background Jesus did.

This is true even in my old music life and industry. The manager of the local venue was forever keen to make us aware of how nobody shows up for the local Blues band, but if a blues band comes all the way from America the tickets sell out for it. Again, even with music, familiarity breeds contempt.

The reading was incredibly timely yet again because the other day I said it to my father in the car. “I can’t live here Dad, I’m not sure I could be a Deacon in a town that hates me. The people know me, my educational and work background. They’d never accept me.

They dislike me that much they won’t employ me. Even the religious types dislike me. Imagine having to stand at the Pulpit and preach to them? They would never listen nor accept me. I’m only using the following as an example and not suggesting I’m special but Dad, Jesus did say a prophet is without honor in his own land.”

My father remained silent only nodding his head in agreement. “After a while he said it’s probably a good idea to throw in the towel, give your sandals a shake, leave town and go somewhere else.” This is easier said than done when you’re actually called to walk into the fire and get burned by a town you so desperately want to leave.

There’s always small minded secular and religious people from my locality who are forever waiting in the shadows. They wait for the “real Stephen” (according to them) to show himself so that they can shout, “There he is, there’s the Stephen I know. . . an absolute horrible human being. A leopard never changes its spots. I’m so glad I’m right. God doesn’t exist, it’s not possible for someone to change especially him. The End.” Familiarity breeds contempt, right?

In fact I’ve met them online in public forums where I debate hot topics like abortion and the Church doctrines. “Well if it isn’t Stephen McElligott from X (referring to the poor estate I grew up on).” Or they’ll say things like, “A leopard never changes its spots Mr.McElligott”. I’m forever coming up against that sort of small minded intimidating behavior.

In fact the other day my friends 6 year old daughters photograph of the giants causeway went viral. he was upset at all the negative comments aimed at a child. I explained to him that the general public are a mixed bag of individuals and so it’s to be expected. It’s a really weird world out there so I wouldn’t allow these comments to get to you.

That is the kind of pressure clergy and politicians are under and such pressure is never fully understood until you yourself are invited to enter the pressure room and become one or the other. Suddenly, you feel the weight of the Cross on your shoulders and feel like there is no Simon of Cyrene. There is nobody going to help me carry this Cross if even unwillingly like Simon did.

The first two readings were about going into that town and accepting Gods grace as being sufficient for the job and journey. It was like Jesus saying, “yes a prophet is without honor in his own town but that doesn’t mean he always has to leave the town.” My wife said she took the Bishops unusual presence at the Mass and such readings as a sign I was to stay and be a Deacon.

As for me? Well, I’m taking it one day at a time to see where it is God leads me. Your prayers and any kind of advice you can give will always be appreciated.

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