Rejected by his own

Al Cariño
July 6, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

The story is told of a Filipino in a foreign country who bought crabs and placed all of them in an open basket. When told that those crabs would escape from the basket, he answered, "Don't worry. Those are Filipino crabs. When one goes up, the others will pull it down." What he is talking about is the "crab mentality" of Filipinos: those who are successful or go up in esteem in their community are pulled down by others. This has been and continues to be an obstacle to our development as a community and as a nation.

Jesus was Himself a victim of this mentality. He left Nazareth a nobody. He came back a celebrity as His reputation as a preacher and miracle-worker had preceded Him.

But this did not last long. True, after Jesus taught in the synagogue, those who heard Him were astonished (Mk. 6:1-6). They wondered at the origin of His wisdom and miraculous powers: "Where did this man get all this?... How is it that such miraculous deeds are accomplished by his hands?" They also wondered at the nature of His wisdom: "What kind of wisdom is he endowed with?" They were asking the right questions. But they fell short of asking the most important question: Who is this man Jesus? - the question which Mark set out to answer in writing his gospel. And the answer was provided by a pagan - the Roman centurion who carried out the order to crucify Jesus. After seeing Him breathe His last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" (Mk. 15:39)

Back in Nazareth and shortly thereafter, the admiration of Jesus' townmates towards Him changed to open hostility. Their questions now focused on the personal and irrelevant: "Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary?" They even named his relatives who were in their midst. What they were saying in effect was, if He was just one of them, how could He be better than them? In the end and in Mark's words, "They would not accept Him." Their envy and pride just could not make them accept that this person of humble origins was really who others claimed Him to be - the Messiah.

Hearing all this, Jesus exclaimed, "A prophet is despised in his native place, among his own relatives and in his own house." Thus apart from curing a few sick people, Jesus "was not able to perform any mighty deed there." Why? Because as was true before, is and will always be, for Jesus to work any miracle, faith in Him is needed. This is so since a miracle is a sign of the presence of the Reign of God in our midst.

Due to their "lack of faith," Jesus left His hometown - never to return again. He then went around teaching from village to village, with Capernaum as his new "home."

From the above, we can see that our so-called "crab mentality" is not really new. Neither is it an attitude peculiar to Filipinos. The same attitude was already present in the people of Nazareth when they put Jesus in His "proper" place.

Certainly, such an attitude will not be of help to us as we make our house into a home, our communities into caring ones. Neither will it be of help in building our local church into a community of believers. The sad fact though is it is prevailing in our churches. Thus when someone we do not like is appointed or elected say as president of the Parish Council, we refuse to cooperate with him. Why? Because he is "only" this or that--and then we rattle off a long list of his faults and weaknesses. We do this consciously or unconsciously because we view his ascendance as an affront to our own person and abilities. We are in effect saying, "I am better than him, so why was I not appointed or elected?" At the root of all this is our wounded pride and self-esteem.

If this is true at the community level, it is also true at the personal level. We even see this manifested in our prayers. When a good fortune happens to someone whom we categorize as "bad," we ask God in our prayer, "Why him and not me?" And then we rattle off to God his faults as we extol our virtues to show that we are really more deserving. Again, such a prayer proceeds from a deep hurt in one's pride.

This attitude reminds me of the Pharisee who prayed in the temple thus: "God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity--greedy, dishonest, adulterous--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income." On the other hand, the tax collector prayed thus: "O God, be merciful to me a sinner." But who went home justified before God? Not the Pharisee but the tax collector. (Lk. 18:10-14)

Pride was what led to the rejection of Jesus by the people of Nazareth. So that this will not befall us, let us learn not only to see but also to accept the good qualities of others instead of considering them as threats to our self-esteem. Then Jesus will not leave us as He did Nazareth. Instead, He will help us become better persons as well as build caring and united communities.