14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
This Sundays Gospel sees Jesus going back to his roots in Nazareth. This is not a social visit: like other towns in Galilee, Nazareth and its people have to hear the Good News of the kingdom. When Jesus teaches in the local synagogue, many of the townspeople are astonished at the performance. They wonder at the origin of Jesus’ teaching and the nature of his wisdom, as well as the miracles that are done through him. From the unanswered questions about Jesus’ wisdom, the neighbours move to more familiar territory and focus on what they do know about Jesus. Whatever their wonder, they are not going to allow the wisdom of Jesus to interfere with their memories of him. Prior to this section in Mark’s gospel, Jesus has been doing some extraordinary things. His baptism by John in the river Jordan was accompanied by an affirming voice of the Father from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son. On you my favor rests.”
After his desert testing Jesus called his first disciples, cured the man in the synagogue with the unclean spirit and the paralytic in Capernaum; expelled the legion of devils from the Gerasene man, you may remember last week in our Gospel Reading Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus, cured the woman with haemorrhage, Jesus is doing wonderful things as he proclaims, in word and deed, the coming of the reign of God. Though he did all the wonderful things the people still had little faith which also seems to be the case these days. The people wanted the powerful signs of God’s final coming with a strong right arm to rescue them. But when Jesus spoke about the signs of the kingdom’s presence, he spoke of scattered seeds and, to emphasize the kingdoms small beginnings, he compared it to a mustard seed, “the smallest of all of the seeds of the earth” Where was God’s show of power and mighty arm in a tiny mustard seed? Mark sums up their reaction, “And they took offense at him.”
And so it is today as many take offence at the values of Christianity and the good it makes for all of us in our world. A world which in many respects is so faithless with many people taking offense at Jesus and his teaching. Jesus revealed God’s presence to the people of Nazareth as a different kind of power: the power used only to help others, not ourselves; a gentle power that does not force or coerce people to do our will; the power of compassion and gentleness, when others are expecting force. All of us know from our own experience that when we admit our failures and limitations, that exercise in honesty can mark the beginning of a new understanding. If our Lord and God can take failure in his stride, we might even end up boasting about God’s fantastic message! What is the message of the wisdom of Jesus? Jesus message is really about using whatever power that we might have in a positive way to help others and the greater our weakness the more powerful we will be that is powerful with the power of compassion and gentleness.