This week we find Jesus powerless to work miracles, a most unlikely situation.
He came to his home-town, Nazareth, the Gospel says, and “he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.”
Why not? Who took away his power?
The answer has to do with the words Jesus often said to people that he healed: “your faith has saved you.”* At first glance, this saying has to be false. If “faith” were all it took to save me, then there would be no need at all for God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Just squeeze out an act of faith and you have all you need.
Obviously it is necessary to take a look at what “Faith” is all about.
The following words of the Catechism get more directly at the meaning of the word as Jesus used it.
Faith is a personal act—the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself (₱166).
Faith in this sense refers to an interaction between ourselves and God, a relationship steeped in trust and love. If a man said to his wife, “I have no faith in you anymore,” and if he meant it, the relationship between the two would be over. The same goes for the faith we are talking about here. To trust in God, to receive his love and respond to it, this is the deepest meaning of faith. In this sense, faith is like a home in which the personal relationship between people and God lives. If you fail in faith, you have locked all the doors.
Faith is not a solo act, it is a mutual act between Jesus and you.
If this makes some sense to you, then you will see why Jesus always said “your faith has saved you.” Faith is the carrier of your (our) relation to God and Jesus. Where there is no true relationship between you and Jesus, healing cannot happen because healing is rooted in trust and faith and love.
This is why Jesus in today’s Gospel is so disappointed when he comes to teach in his home town and finds only scorn. “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” The Gospel says that Jesus “was amazed at their lack of faith.”
Jesus’ relationship with the Nazarenes was broken. They would not have faith. No wonder he could not “perform any mighty deed there.” He could not force faith upon them, they had to choose it themselves.
And so must we.