14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 5th July 2015

"Journey of Faith"

Scripture Reading – Mark 6:1-6

Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

INTRODUCTION TO LECTIO DIVINA

In Mark’s Gospel, the visit of Jesus to Nazareth concludes the first stage of his public ministry. The astonishment of the crowds at his teaching and authority gives way to incredulity. We are witnessing here a historical fact, which Mark raises to the level of a universal law. Knowing Jesus does not necessarily lead to recognizing him as Christ the Son of God. Familiarity with his person does not always lead to faith. Those who know Jesus best will not become witnesses of his miracles. Knowing him too well has made them incapable of hoping for miracles from him. It would be worse if what happened to those closest to him, were to happen to us who believe in him today. If we imagine a Jesus who is “too normal”, or a God who is “too divine”, we fail to recognise the one true God who is revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. If we form our own idea of what we should expect from God, we do not allow ourselves to be surprised by a God who is beyond our imagination and our dreams. And that would be a real loss!

LECTIO DIVINA

I. Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it

After preaching in parables and healing many people, Jesus returned to his own region, accompanied by his disciples. His fellow citizens marvelled, not at what they had heard about him, but at what they heard during the prayer in the synagogue. Their failure to understand was not surprising. Precisely because they knew where he came from, the place where they themselves were living, and who his family were, and the people among whom he lived, they were amazed and could not help asking where he got such wisdom from. The evangelist insists that the teaching of Jesus was discussed many times by the people of his home town.

They were shocked and they argued about him because they could not deny the evidence they had seen and heard. How could this townsman of theirs know so much? Only Jesus could explain what was happening. His statement made perfect sense but it led to unexpected consequences. Excessive familiarity is an obstacle to faith. Someone who is well known will never be accepted as a prophet. And where there is no faith, there can be no miracles.

If Jesus permitted some people to be cured, it was a sign of his compassion towards them, and not the result of the faith of the crowd. He healed some people, not because of the faith of his townspeople, but on account of his own goodness. Significantly, Jesus moved away from his fellow citizens because of their lack of faith. Undoubtedly, he had hoped for a better reception. He left them, because if they did not believe in him they did not deserve his presence among them, even if they were well used to having him in their midst. Not knowing him leads more readily to faith.

II. Meditate:  apply what the text says to life

Today’s gospel passage records an episode in the life of Jesus that we tend to refer to frequently. Jesus had left his home and family, his home town and his occupation, in order to preach the kingdom of God. Then, one day, he returned to his own people. He did not come back alone, but was accompanied by the men who shared his life and his preaching. He came back to his home town, but this time as a famous person. What he had said and done caused great excitement in Galilee, and undoubtedly news of the wonderful things he had done had reached the ears of the people of his home town.

His fellow townspeople thought they knew him well, because they had known him since he was a child. It was only natural then that they were surprised at the wisdom Jesus demonstrated when he explained the Scriptures to them on the Sabbath day. They were amazed. They could not understand how one of themselves could know so much about God or could work such wonders. It was hard for them to believe in him, because they thought they knew all about him. They doubted him, therefore, because they knew him so well. He had worked among them. His relatives were still living among them. They just could not believe what they saw with their eyes – hands that worked miracles and lips that spoke with wisdom. And because they could not believe, Jesus could work no miracles among them.

Their incredulity seemed strange to Jesus, but he consoled himself with the thought that it is only among his own people that a prophet is not appreciated. It could be that we fail to appreciate the importance of this. It may seem quite reasonable to us that the people who know us best find it hardest to believe us. The closer we are to someone, the easier it is to discover their weaknesses and mistakes. For that reason we are inclined to understand and excuse the people of Jesus’ own town. Jesus did not excuse them however, and he left them on account of their lack of faith. The wonder is that we do not understand fully why they failed to appreciate Jesus, even though they knew him well. And, worst of all, something similar to what happened to them, could also happen to us.

We also think we know all about Jesus, and so we do not allow ourselves to be surprised by anything he says. We are attracted by his teaching, and we are struck at times by the radicalism of what he says, but we continue to tell ourselves that we know him so well that he has nothing new to say to us. It is true we are surprised by miracles that others receive from his hands, but we lose faith in him because he does not work miracles for us. We do not believe that miracles can come from the hands of a worker, an ordinary man like us. We know him so well that we find it hard to believe in him. And so, what happened to his own people long ago, happens again to us today. Our familiarity with Jesus, and the fact that we know so much about him, make it difficult for us to believe in him. And like the people of his home town long ago, we pay the price for our incredulity by not having any miracles worked in our lives.

For that very reason, we live the Christian life in routine manner, without surprise or excitement, because we believe that God has already said all he has to say, and has done all he promised for the world. God no longer surprises us, because we think we know everything about him. If someone says something about God that we don’t already know, we react, like the people of Jesus’ hometown, with mistrust and apprehension. We don’t believe what we don’t understand. We don’t expect to receive from God anything we cannot achieve by ourselves. We understand the importance of Jesus for others, and what he does for them, but we pay little heed to what Jesus means for us, just because we think we know all about him, and we don’t want to change our idea of God.

Because we take him for granted, we fail to get to know him better. Because we are accustomed to him, we are not open to a new and better experience. We think we know him already, so we do not go in search of him, and because we do not search for him, we do not feel united to him. Like the people of Jesus’ home town, we deprive ourselves of God, simply because we believe that God cannot be different from what we already believe, that he cannot treat us any better than he does already. We are so used to being with him that we do not allow him to surprise us, we do not expect greater things from God. If we think we know everything about God, we will never be surprised by him.

We live the Christian life without trust in God. We feel cheated by God, simply because we limit our faith to what we know. His hands work no miracles for us, because we do not allow him to touch our hearts. We are unable to form an image of God greater than the one we already have in our hearts and minds, and so we do not create a place for him in our hearts and minds. We diminish God if we do not learn something new about him every day, and we do not get enthusiastic about this impoverished God. When we know everything about God we can accept him, but we are not fascinated by such a God. He does not disturb us but neither does he surprise us. Basically, like the townspeople of Jesus, we have not enough faith. We rely on our own powers. We do not put our trust in God because he is too familiar to us.

The sad thing about all this is that, like those townspeople of Jesus, we run the risk of not witnessing his miracles. We make it impossible for Jesus to work wonders among us. We are more surprised by his wisdom than by our own needs. Maybe we ask ourselves how can he say such things, rather than why he says them. We wonder where he got all his knowledge, but we pay little heed to the fact that he knows all about us, including all our ills. Because we do not believe in him, we do not see his healing power.

It is sad that, today as in the past, Jesus still works miracles among strangers and not among those who know him. It is easier to convert people who do not know him than those who are already Christian. People who regard themselves as believers are so used to God that they have lost respect and veneration for him. We are so accustomed to what others say about Jesus that we do not make an effort to experience him personally. What happened to the people of his home town should serve as a serious warning to us. Thinking we know a lot about Jesus can be an obstacle to believing in him personally and accepting his teaching. Taking him for granted can keep us from witnessing his miracles and experiencing his power. Just because we are Christians does not always mean that we are more likely to believe in him. It would be sad if, like the people of his home town, we were to lose faith in him simply because we do not appreciate him enough. It would be sad if he were to leave us, just because we already know him well.

PRAYER

Lord God,
when our world lay in ruins,
you raised it up again on the foundation of your Son’s Passion and Death.
Give us grace to rejoice in the freedom from sin
which he gained for us,
and bring us to everlasting joy.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

IMAGE

SR_14th_620x300play