Sunday, July 5, 2009

No Honor for Hometown Prophets

"He was amazed at their lack of faith."

That is what Saint Mark tells us about Jesus at the end of today's gospel. "He was amazed at their lack of faith."

You will often here Christians say that they wish they had lived in Biblical times, especially in Jesus' day. They'll get all misty eyed and say in a wishful tone some some thing like, "Wouldn't it have been great to been alive when Jesus was, to hear him speak and see him perform miracles?" Often underlying that nostalgia is a certainty that they would have been the ones who really listened and followed Jesus with all their heart. Let's hope so.

The reality, however, may have been very different. In the gospel reading, Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth. At first the people are impressed. They are impressed by Jesus wisdom and by his miracles. He comes from a good family...As they think about it, St. Mark tells us "they took offense at him." Why?

They took offense at him after they began to think about is family. His teaching and his miracles were fine until they remembered he's one of us! Who does he think he is? Is he trying to impress us by coming back here? Trying to show off is more like it! But we know his family; and they're--so ordinary.(Which only shows they didn't really know his family at all!) He's just a carpenter. "He's the son of Mary"; no proper pedigree for him! That's what Jesus' hometown folks thought of him. Do you think you'd really be any different?

Ezekiel call such people "hard of face and obstinate of heart; a rebellious house." Saint Paul knew such people. He knew weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints for the sake of Christ. Because of things God had revealed to him in prayer, God gave Paul "a thorn in the flesh" to keep him from getting to proud. All this taught Paul to trust God in his weakness so he could show the power of Christ.

"He was amazed at their lack of faith." Jesus knew that he, even as a prophet, was not welcome. Because of their unbelief, Jesus could only cure a few sick people. They were probably the only ones willing to give Jesus the benefit of the doubt--an that was enough faith for them to be healed.

At this Mass, in this Eucharist, Jesus will be among us. He will be as real as he was that day in Nazareth. In fact, even more real because in the Eucharist we partake of the risen and glorified Christ! How is your faith? Do you think that you know Jesus in his Church? Does his family put you off? Will Jesus be unable to do any mighty works here because of our unbelief? Will he be "amazed at our lack of faith?" Or, like Paul, will we know that it in our weakness that we will find the power of Christ?