There’s a line I learned from an old chorus when I was a Methodist that goes, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.” It refers to the way one person’s witness to the Gospel can touch a lot of people and bring them closer to God. But it’s just as true from a negative aspect as well.
Take today’s gospel as a case in point. Jesus came home to Nazareth proclaiming an amazingly positive message: a time of favour has begun. The promises of healing, forgiveness, and restoration first preached by the prophet Isaiah are about to be fulfilled. At first, the people’s response was positive, but then some began to wonder, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son? How can he be making such sweeping declarations about God?” You can see the negativity beginning to spread: doubt turns into scepticism, and scepticism turns into cynicism. Our Lord responded with words of truth—and something of a rebuke for their growing negativity. But negativity won that day in Nazareth.
Unfortunately, this kind of process can happen in our lives too. A negative word from a sister or a friend or relative can sometimes override hundreds of kind words they have said to us in the past. Or a sense of guilt over sin can cloud out our experience of God’s loving kindness and mercy. In such cases, we let the negative dominate us and allow it to rob us of the life God has given us.
Time and time again God tells us that he loves us. He gave up his Son to demonstrate the depths of his love. He even sent his Spirit to live in us and fill us with his divine, transforming power. How positive we should be about life.
And yet there are so many ways we let negativity cloud our judgment. But this isn’t the way Our Lord wants us to be. He wants us to share his confidence in God. He wants to give us his sense of optimism grounded in hope. He wants us to give priority to mercy over judgment and to pay more attention to God’s love than to others’ failings—or indeed our own.