Nazareth weekend with Little Brother Marc

A third story, again at work: there were a lot of young probationers sent by their schools to learn the trade. Often they were young Arabs, who are usually not viewed very kindly. I developed the habit of asking their names. I was struck to see how important this insignificant little thing was: when you go back the next day and say, “Hello, Jamal” or “Hello, Kader!”, the number of times they said to me, with joy and surprise in their eyes, “Oh, you remembered my name!” And after that, they came to greet me every day, which they did not do with the others. That caused me to reflect a lot and understand more deeply these words of Jesus, “The shepherd knows his sheep and he calls each of them by name and they follow him!” To what depth of the human, to what secret hope of salvation Jesus makes allusion in that simple phrase! The interesting thing for me is that this story has a follow-up: one of my colleagues was a practising Moslem, an open and curious man: we always talked a lot with him about religion, politics, justice, etc.  And with a lot of freedom and friendship, he often commented to me on my ways of doing things. He always insisted on telling me that when I spoke about humanity, he saw that the source of my attitude was my faith in God. I found that very beautiful. And so he spotted my way of doing things with the young men and the fact that they then came to greet me. He then spoke to me and I explained to him what this had led me to discover of the mystery of the love of God, from the words about the sheep. It touched me a lot that when I left he said to me, in reference to this little story, “I am going to miss you.  Being with you has made me work on my own Islam: there is a dimension of humanity with you that we do not have” and I thanked him for his help in re-reading my life. All that happened because we were together for more than a year, brooms in hand.

I will finish for good with a sentence from the Gospel that is a great light for me:

“You are the salt of the earth. If the salt loses its savour, what will make it salty again?”  (Matthew 5:13).
There is a mystery on the salt, and that comes through in our manner of speaking. If food is a little tasteless, we say, “It needs a bit of salt”. If there is too much, we say, “You have been a bit heavy-handed with the salt!” But if there is just the right amount, we don’t speak about salt any more, we just say, “What a good soup!” It is the taste of the food that comes out, not the taste of the salt! And that is exactly the meaning of the image in the Gospel. We sometimes ask ourselves anxiously how to give a Christian flavour to our world. Perhaps that is not the right question. There is flavour in the world, and it is God that has put it there. Our role, as Christians, is to be there so that the mysterious exchange is produced and the divine flavour of the world can be expressed. Not our own taste...16

Is there any better way to talk about Nazareth?

Marc Hayet


Pentecost (10-12/06/2011)