Fourteenth Sunday Of Ordinary Time
When we assemble each week on Sunday, we are continuing an earlier tradition of God’s people who met on Saturday – the Sabbath. For the Jews, the Sabbath was, and is, the day to rejoice in the goodness of God in creating the universe, and our human family. The first Christians moved the celebration to Sunday as this day was seen as the day of resurrection: God’s great act of restoring and renewing the creation in Jesus.
But whether it is celebrating the creation of all by God, or the renewal of all in Christ, the celebrations have some common elements: the people are to recall God’s love in a meal and in reading the scriptures. For the Jews, the meal takes place in their homes on Friday evenings and they gather on Saturday to hear the Law and pray. We listen to the scriptures first, what we call the New Law, and then have our meal together here. Today we recall that Jesus entered the assembly on the Sabbath in his home town; we believe that he is here among us in this assembly today. Let us recall his presence, and pray that he may find us a community of faith.
The gospel passage for this Sunday is St Mark’s version of Jesus’ return to his home town of Nazareth, accompanied by his disciples. He began to teach in Nazareth, and many were astonished by what they saw in him. They wondered where all this wisdom had come from. What they saw was very different from what others had seen. This man was one of them, in the deepest sense; they knew him and his family. The people of the town would not accept him; even though they had heard of his outstanding accomplishments in other places, they could not see what made him so special. The story of what happened to Jesus when he decided to return to his town is a familiar story, one that happens to all of us: we achieve wonderful things far away from home – in another city, or perhaps in some other part of the world, where we are not well known; then the time comes when we know we must return to our own country and there we find that people at home do not see us in the same way.
The situation recorded in today’s gospel shows a reaction that must have been widespread: the local people have Jesus in one box in their imaginations: he is the guy from down the road —they know him, and his background. For anyone who comes from their town they have a box for what they expect for and from that person: fine to get him to do a job for you, fine to go to the well with his sisters, fine to engage with them socially. That’s all there is to them: another family, just like us, and they should not think of themselves as anything special. So if Jesus stands up and presents himself as a leader, that is just not on! across as one filled with wisdom, he is a teacher like they have heard, he speaks in a way they have always imagined a prophet would speak. They have another box marked ‘prophet’ and he seems to fit there too! But that box comes with a label: prophets are very distant from everyday life, they are exceptional in every way, they are ‘not like us’. So when these people find that Jesus ticking both the box marked ‘prophet’ and ticking the box marked ‘ordinary bloke’ ‘regular guy’ ‘one of our own,’ they cannot cope with this complexity. So, since they are more sure that he is the guy down the road, they reject him as a prophet .
I have seen many people give up the faith because they suffered some humiliation indeed on a number of times in the past I too have felt that way. Somebody says a word that hurts them; they start brooding and the devil is right there telling them to throw in the towel. That is not Jesus’ way. He keeps going. Jesus suffered rejection not only from so many people when he walked in person here on earth. The first thing that Jesus does is acknowledge it. Jesus is so deep in Scripture that he is able to put the attack into a biblical context. Okay, these people are taking offense at me. They are making some cutting remarks. But look what the prophets suffered. Why should I expect anything different?
Faith is the ability to imagine that God’s goodness is greater and closer than the bits-and-pieces around us and the ups-and downs of life. In this case, faith was the ability to imagine that God was so close that Jesus was both the guy from down the road and the great prophet and the wise teacher and more besides. But the group could not make that leap of imagination —and Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.
Let us remember that in the bits-and-pieces around us and the ups-and downs of life that Jesus is there with us and he shows us that he is the way the truth and the life.