Ezekiel 2:2-5; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6

Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots for you.

Jesus went to his own part of the country followed by his disciples. When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue in a way that kept his large audience amazed. They said -- Where did he get all this? What kind of wisdom is he endowed with? How is it such miraculous deeds are accomplished by his hands? Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, a brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not his sisters our neighbors here?

I suppose any newly ordained priest who returns to his hometown parish the day after his ordination to celebrate his first Mass has experienced a bit of what Jesus experiences today in the Gospel. However, in the case of the newly ordained priest, the dispositions are sometimes reversed; that is, the parish is glowing, happy and proud to have something to do with the birth of a new priest, whereas the new priest -- after being away from his hometown for several years -- may be nervous about seeing his old girlfriends, Mr. Reilly whose picture window he accidentally smashed playing streetball, his raucous cousins with whom he shared a tradition of egging storefront windows on Halloween, and Mrs. DiPietro, the DRE, whose life he singlehandedly made a living hell for most of his high school CCD.

The new priest enters through the doors of his home parish ordained all of 24 hours. Jesus enters his hometown as an established Rabbi with a band of disciples. His wisdom-filled preaching is masterful and illicits amazement from his audience which grows in size with each word He utters. Further, their intrigue is heightened by what they have heard regarding His ability to perform miraculous deeds.

Some scholars claim that the reason Jesus is referred to as the son of Mary is because Joseph has already passed away by this time. It was perhaps the death of Joseph that kept Jesus in Nazareth until the age of 30 -- supporting his mother and carrying on the trade of his earthly father: a craftsman. Here we also have the verse that some scholars claim to be virginity-threatening; that is the reference to the brothers and sisters of Jesus. A response? A wider interpretation of the Greek can mean -- cousins. SYOC (start your own chatroom).

They found him too much for them. The response from Jesus to all this was -- No prophet is without honor except in his native place, among his own kindred, and in his own house.

When need be, Jesus is a master at one-upping, and conducting preemptive strikes. He makes his challengers think. We see this in the census-tax confrontation, the prioritization of commandments confrontation, when the woman caught in the act of adultery is used as a pawn to entrap Jesus, and in a handful of sabbath breaking confrontations. Ironically, perhaps the only place we see Jesus forfeit his advantage in a quibble of words is with the Syrophoenician woman in Mk 8. Her question -- her plea -- was from the heart and pure.

In the Gospel today we see Jesus level the crowd stating -- No prophet is without honor except in his native place, among his own kindred, and in his own house. Jesus sensed that their amazement was not the type that leads to a deepening faith; but rather an amazement that is infected with doubt and resentment -- a resentment that leads to hardness, not openness.

He could work no miracle there apart from curing a few who were sick by laying hands on them, so much did their lack of faith distress him. He made the rounds of the neighboring villages instead, and spent his time teaching.

Of course, my immediate response to this passage as a priest in the 21st century is -- Not too shabby! I will take ONLY a few miraculous cures for the sick any day. Nevertheless, Jesus knows the potential of His divine power -- and its ability to both embody love and compassion and combat evil and illness. He is distressed that their lack of faith is not healing-friendly. It is not receptive; but rather deflective. Clearly, it is not Jesus who loses here; but rather the crowd.

How does all this preach? What strikes me is this -- WHAT WE BELIEVE REALLY MATTERS. This Gospel passage points out that there is a clear connection between our faith and the reception of the goodness of God in our lives. A life growing in faith can slowly make a cement block into a sponge. The showers of the goodness of God begins to be absorbed, recognized, and appreciated rather than being ricocheted off in splashes (perhaps there is a chance here to use some props -- a cement block, a sponge, and a pitcher of water). What we believe really matters.

Some people hold that God always gets what God wants; that is, it is impossible to frustrate the will of God in our lives. After all, God is God. A lack of faith is only a temporary inconvenience around which God will find another route to get to us.

Some people even hold this belief when it comes to vocations to the priesthood; a la -- If God wants you to be a priest, you will eventually become a priest no matter how many obstacles you place in that path or how many detours you take. You buy that? I do not.

In the end, let us not hand directions to Jesus to the neighboring towns around us. Rather, let us keep Him in our town, our own lives. Let us be willing to make ourselves more sponge-like and less cement-like when it comes to the reception of the healing and goodness of God in our lives. What we believe matters.

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