HE CAME TO WHAT WAS HIS OWN, BUT HIS OWN PEOPLE DID NOT ACCEPT HIM
Sunday, July 5, 2015
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Rejection at Nazareth
1 He departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.2 When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!3 Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”5So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.6He was amazed at their lack of faith.
The Mission of the Twelve
He went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching.
Other readings: Ezekiel 2:2-5; Psalm 123:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
As you can see, the heading of today’s Lectio is a verse from John’s Gospel (1:11). We have the feeling that the words of the Evangelist are being fulfilled literally in this event narrated by the authors of the three Synoptics. Only Luke mentions the name of Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth. John does not even mention the event as such, but his Gospel tells us about the constant rejection Jesus experiences all through his ministry. If we take a deeper look, we can find in Mark’s Gospel three moments in which Jesus is openly rejected. First, in 3:6, after he had healed a man with a withered hand: “the Pharisees went out [of the synagogue] and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.” Today’s passage, the ending of the miracle section, presents the rejection by the people of his hometown. In Luke’s parallel text (4:16-30), they even try to throw him down a cliff. The last example is not limited to a single moment, but extends through to the time of his passion when our Lord’s own disciples will betray, deny or abandon him.
Returning to our text, what makes us feel uneasy when reading today’s passage from the Gospel is not only Jesus’ being rejected by his own people, but some other factors that leave us somewhat disconcerted. Jesus arrives at his home town and, obviously, the people have already heard about the “mighty deeds wrought by his hands.” Now, his preaching in the synagogue provokes a reaction of “astonishment” or “amazement” as it had in Capernaum (1:21-28). That leads, curiously (or naturally?), to a mixed feeling of envy and disbelief. How can a common craftsman, a carpenter, whose humble family and modest background everybody knows, perform these wondrous deeds and preach as if he were a rabbi? The difference with Luke’s account is that Mark does not provide us with any other hint to understand how their astonishment turns into a feeling of scandal or offense. In any case, it is Jesus who now feels “amazed at their lack of faith” (6:6).
And faith, in turn, leads us back to the previous section. When the disciples were scared for fear of the storm on the lake (Mark 4:35-41), Jesus complained at their lack of faith (v. 41). However, in the case of the woman with hemorrhages, Jesus praises her saying: “daughter, your faith has saved/healed you” (5:35). It is now our turn to be amazed, for we find it difficult to explain the relationship between faith and wondrous deeds or miracles in Mark’s Gospel. There are twenty examples of miracles, fifteen of which are healings. Curiously, in some cases (that of the woman cited above, and in the healing of blind Bartimaeus, 10:46-52), faith is seen as the cause or condition of the healing. But in nine out of the fifteen accounts, faith is not even mentioned! In other cases, Jesus complains at their “lack of faith” (today’s text), or what we can see is the faith of others (the four friends or relatives who carry the paralytic, 2:1-12; or Jairus, who is urged to believe, 5:36). The only thing we always find is Jesus’ mercy and his will to heal, comfort and act as the bearer of God’s mercy for those who suffer, irrespective of the faith of those who come to him. Perhaps these cases of curing without even asking for help could be interpreted as signs of God’s generosity. It is always out of grace that we are cured and saved!
In spite of the lack of faith on the part of the people in his native place, Jesus “cured a few sick people.” In fact, salvation overcomes our shortcomings and the barriers we build to prevent or ignore Jesus’ acting in our lives. What could happen if we did not hinder his grace from granting us what we need? There is a sad dimension to this passage. The prejudices and the hostile feelings of the people prevent them from discovering and receiving the saving message of the Kingdom and Jesus’ power. Can we find parallel attitudes in our own lives and the way in which we receive those who minister to our communities, or simply offer their witness of Christian faith and life?
Pray for those who feel rejected by any kind of prejudice or discrimination in our Christian communities, churches or institutions: that they may find the warm acceptance of all of us, called to build the one Body of Christ.
Pray for the sick and the elderly, so often ignored or abandoned to their own fate: that they may experience Jesus’ saving care and our help in their distress.
Let us also pray for our lack of faith: that Jesus may grant us the grace of recognizing his presence among us and receiving him with joy.
It will not be very difficult for us to find some members of our social or religious group who are treated with “suspicion” because of their past, their background or some other more or less vague reason. It will be, instead, more difficult to overcome that kind of prejudice or actual negative judgement about them. See if you can take some step to overcome those feelings in yourself and help those in question to experience acceptance and understanding.
Reflections written by Rev. Fr. Mariano Perrón,Roman Catholic priest,Archdiocese of Madrid, Spain