For many people, the struggle with faith is real. There are any number of deep personal issues that exacerbate the problem. Many have “trust issues” that seem to be incapable of simple human trust. Lacking that faculty, the idea of religious faith becomes virtually impossible.

For others there is almost an opposite reaction. We have too much familiarity with faith and people of faith. Sometimes our expectations of others become overly idealized and simplistic.

Sometimes we either know or learn something about someone in whom we had placed some level of trust, or about whom we had certain expectations, and we might experience some level of scandal. This is natural. We are all human beings, we all sin, and we are all in need of God’s mercy.

The stumbling block sets in when we allow our perception of someone – perhaps even from the distant past – to cloud our present. Yes, there are people in all of our lives with whom we have such a dark history, that a bridge of trust is very difficult to cross.

The people of Nazareth thought that they knew Jesus. He had been raised in that small Galilean village, so undoubtedly everyone there knew him. We do not know exactly at what point he left Nazareth, but he certainly has other relatives that still lived there. They knew him, or so they thought.

Even Jesus seems unable to overcome this obstacle. The people of Nazareth were incapable of looking beyond the familiar to see the possible. They could not see how God could act in their midst, from one of their own, in ways that were extraordinary. They lacked not just faith, but the world view that enabled faith to be possible.

We cannot condemn them for this. The response of the Nazareans is a natural one. The problem comes when they cannot allow the words and deeds of Jesus to fill in the gaps and to open them to the possibility of God acting in their midst.

This, then, takes the issue to a new level.

It is one thing to miss God acting in and through a particular experience or a specific individual. It can indeed be relatively easy to miss God acting. It is another thing, though, when we refuse to see God’s handiwork in an event or in a person.

Other than familiarity, we do not know of any specific reasons why the people of Nazareth could not see God acting in and through Jesus. We might have specific reasons why we refuse to allow the possibility of God acting in and through someone whom we might know; and perhaps that person is even oneself. We have to be open to God’s mercy in any person’s life, enabling that person to have a genuine conversion to become a disciple.

The people of Nazareth could not see God’s mercy at work in Jesus. For his part, Jesus’ response to the people of Nazareth is a telling one: “He was amazed at their lack of faith.”

We cannot allow our own prejudices, short-comings and stubbornness to be accusations against us. We do not place our faith, the faith we owe to God alone, in a person – any person. All people will fail, all people will sin. None of us wants Jesus to look at us and say “I am amazed at your lack of faith.” Let us all be open to God’s merciful love present in the world, and to go beyond our own prejudices and preconceptions to allow God’s Word and work to be alive and work in others, even in those whom we least expect.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.