But Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and in his own house.”
And he did not work many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.
Saint Mark, in the parallel passage to today's story from Saint Matthew, says Jesus "was not able" to work many miracles in his hometown; and he was "amazed at their lack of faith." His unexpected disability and their lack of faith are apparently related though Mark hesitates to say it in so many words. The connecting word and is ambiguous.
Saint Matthew, adapting Mark's story to his own theological purposes, makes the connection explicit: "And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith."
However, the connection is not a strange paralysis; because means that Jesus punished them for not believing in him.
Once again, I see an immediate resemblance between the "God of the Old Testament" and the "God of the New Testament." Both are capable of severe punishment when sin calls for it. Saint Matthew has more references to the Old Testament than the other evangelists. He set out to show that Jesus fulfilled the Word of God; he would certainly not recognize an opposition between the Testaments. The "God of the Old Testament" is the Lord who has appeared among us.
In this presentation of the incident, Saint Matthew also dismisses Mark's picture of Jesus as "amazed at their lack of faith." He knew his own people. His punishment is not arbitrary; it is the inevitable consequence of infidelity; as we read in Saint John,
"whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
This punishment is similar to that which the Prophet Amos delivered. As the priest of Bethel said, "The country cannot endure all his words."
The religious picture on this page depicts the Lord offering his Sacred Heart to the viewer. If it's a maudlin image, it makes the point. He cannot and will not force himself on anyone. Our love is always a free choice; we cannot love anyone who threatens us with violence, much less an all-powerful god.
But we can receive the love and mercy of one who comes to us, riding a colt, the foal of a donkey. If he threatens us, it's with silence; his punishment is not to speak to us until, desperate for consolation, we beg to hear his voice.