Small community life has its own dynamic, particularly if one has grown up surrounded by extended family and friends, in a community in which all know each other and know or invent narratives about fellow villagers. “Is this not the carpenter?” Note that the carpenter was an essential and prominent member of any community. He made practically everything needed, from farm and building supplies to household utensils. Joseph and his son and family were therefore prominent citizens in Nazareth and, as we shall see, in its synagogue. Familiarity breeds contempt.
Jesus is invited to read the Scripture passage appointed from the scroll of the law. He is gaining a reputation as a teacher. One can imagine that the community took some pride in the young man who had downed his tools. Mark does not tell us which passage Jesus read or what he said. Luke tells us that it was a reading from Isaiah and that Jesus identified himself with prophecy. Whatever Jesus said caused great annoyance to the villagers. In short they said, “Who does he think he is?”
|First reading and psalm: Ezek. 2:1-5 • Ps. 123|
Alternate: 2 Sam. 5:1-5, 9-10 • Ps. 48
2 Cor. 12:2-10 • Mark 6:1-13
Mark describes a gathering and ominous opposition to Jesus’ ministry. Already the lawyers have called him Satan. Mary and the family have chased after him and asked him to stop and come home. They are embarrassed, and probably concerned that he will stir up the religious authorities against him. Now, even at home, those who have known Jesus since infancy reject him as an upstart. He’s not trained as a rabbi and he has no credentials. Soon the Pharisees, the royal family, and the Roman occupiers will create an unholy alliance to silence and destroy him.
Jesus is amazed and hurt by the rejection of his familiar friends and even family. Yet he persists. He goes into the surrounding villages, and he sends his immediate followers out, traveling light as consecrated beggars, whose only possession is the power to heal troubled people and to turn their lives around. This is a story that has inspired great saints, people like Francis of Assisi, and those called to religious orders.
In a secular world, in which it is not uncommon for us as Christians to be misunderstood by family and friends who may well be embarrassed by our devotion, we may feel the force of rejection, that we can do no good thing close to home. Note however that Jesus was able to do a few good things in Nazareth: “He could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.” This should be no cause for discouragement. There are other venues where we will be heard, where our love and loving touch may be expected, particularly if we make no demands, require no fame or favor, but in our own humility travel light.
O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Look It Up
Read Luke 4.
Think About It
Can you remember a holy person in the place where you grew up? How did you perceive this person then?