The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Homily: Wednesday, 4th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1

Readings: Heb 12:4-7, 11-15 • Psalm 103 • Mk 6:1-6

In my previous parish on Cape Cod I used to visit a local nursing home a couple of times a month. After conducting a Liturgy of the Word with Communion I’d take Eucharist to the rooms of those who were unable to attend. Once, right after I’d given Communion to a 96-year-old man, a doctor, who looked to be in his early forties, entered the room, introduced himself, and began to examine the patient.

After a long moment the old man looked closely at the doctor and said, “Wait a minute! Aren’t you Jack Snow’s little boy? What was your name…Charlie wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” the doctor replied, “and it still is.”

“Yeah, well you’re the kid who was always getting in trouble, always doing stupid stuff. And now you’re a doctor? Well, you can’t be a very good one. I don’t want you working on me.”

The doctor simply said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place” [Mk 6:4]. Then he added, “Apparently it’s the same for doctors…now, open your mouth and say, ‘Ahhh.’”

Of course, I can no longer read this Gospel passage from Mark without thinking of those two men. It seems many of us are not unlike the Nazarenes. Of course the young doctor wasn’t divine. He was imperfect, a sinner like all of us. But his elderly patient just couldn’t accept him for who he was.

Jesus teaching in Nazareth
The people of Nazareth ask, “Where did He get all this?...Is this not the carpenter?” [Mk 6:2-3] Yes, those who recognize Jesus bind Him to the limitations of His earthly profession, and set the same limits to His ministry, His teaching, and His miracles. What they really want to say is, “Why isn’t He just doing what carpenters are supposed to do?”

They then push their doubts even farther: And isn’t He just “the Son the Mary”? [Mk 6:3] Don’t we know all His relatives? But Mary – the theotokos, the Mother of God whose mission is part of her Son’s mission – means nothing to them. They can’t grasp the truth because they know only the woman, not the Blessed One, only the carpenter, not the Redeemer.

And so they take offense, for how can the local carpenter bring the Kingdom of God into the world? How can the Son of Mary be the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets? Yes, they take offense because they refuse the truth, the free acknowledgement of the truth that comes with the acceptance of God’s gift of faith. Jesus chastises them for their lack of faith; He exposes them, puts them in their place, the very place He came from.

But the Lord perseveres. He heals some, a few Mark tells us, apparently a select few. Nazareth rejected the Good News of salvation, and Jesus left them…at least for a while. He would gladly have received them all, worked miracles among them, deepened their faith, but they don’t want Him. They have taken offense. Amazed at their lack of faith, He does nothing to break their resistance. He moves on to other more welcoming places.

What about you and me? Do we see the necessity of faith? Have we kept the Lord from working miracles in our own lives? Has weakness of faith blocked the healing God wants for us?

Brothers and sisters, there’s no limit to Jesus’ power. He asks only for faith, God’s door into human hearts, but one that can be opened only from within.

Open your heart to the Lord. Call on the power of His Holy Spirit and let His gifts, His healing, fill you, and bring you the joy He promises.

A few chapters later, Mark introduces us to a man whose faith has been tested. He is one like us who strives to accept God’s gift of faith in the midst of distress. Chastised by the Lord, He responds prayerfully: “Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief!” [Mk 9:24] Let us pray the same.

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