FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME CYCLE “B” July 8, 2012
In the Gospel today, Jesus is amazed. I found that curious, because Jesus doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who amazes easily. I think of Jesus as pretty wise, who really knows the depths of the human heart, who is really aware of what is really going on, who is not easily surprised or amazed. And yet in today’s Gospel Jesus is amazed. What is going on?
Jesus returns to His native place, to the people He grew up with, to His family and His neighbors, to old friends and acquaintances; to the buddies He played with and studied with, to the people who helped to form and shape Him. Certainly Jesus was anxious to share with them the Good News that God was now breaking into history, overcoming sickness, sin and death, and providing a new way to the future where God’s Will would be done. Jesus cared about these people and was eager with expectation to share with them the great gift of the Gospel, the Good News.
But instead of acceptance, He finds rejection. Instead of welcome, He encounters resistance. Instead of faith, He discovers lack of faith. And He is “amazed.”
Have you ever had the experience of picking out a special gift for someone you care about, something you think is really neat, maybe spent more on it than you probably should have, anticipated the person’s reaction when they get this very special gift, only to have them go, “Oh, that’s nice” and then ignore it? Or worse, they actively dislike it. How did you feel? Were you “amazed”? Well, maybe somewhat, that they did not appreciate what you considered the ideal gift: but also you felt disappointed, hurt, deflated, even crushed. And I think the same is true for Jesus. He was not just amazed, but hurt. So hurt and upset that He was thrown off His game. Mark tells us: “So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying hands on them.” Jesus was really thrown for a loop. … Amazed.
What are we to make of all this? Well, faith, as wonderful as it is, is not easy. Faith challenges our assumptions about how the world works: That the peacemakers, not the strong and invincible, are the ones who are blessed; That the meek - not the arrogant and powerful, the movers and shakers and the rich - will inherit the earth; That it is better to give than to receive; That God is in charge and we are not; And that we
must die to ourselves to truly come to life. The way of Faith is often uncomfortable and difficult.
And the people of Jesus’ own kin and house are like the rest of us: lazy. They don’t want to be inconvenienced, much less challenged and stretched. They have grown comfortable with the way of the world. They have made their compromises and accommodations with evil and sin. And they don’t want to be jerked out of their narrow little ruts that they have fallen into. Because Generosity, Compassion, Forgiveness, Fidelity and Love are all hard work.
Add to that their jealousy that this Jesus kid, who does not come from any special family, should now think He is something special: the Messiah, huh! And the natural skepticism that comes from getting knocked down every time you get your hopes up, so that you protect yourself from disappointment and hurt by learning not to expect too much. Put all that together and it is pretty understandable why the people of Nazareth react the way they do.
They said, “Where did this guy get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
In the older translation we used to use at Mass, it says “They found him too much for them.” He was a challenge.
The people use the excuse that they know this guy, and He is nothing special, to avoid the challenge of Faith. They box Jesus in with their so-called knowledge of Him. They constrain and restrict Him with their limited expectations, because they have already made up their minds about who Jesus is, and they will not open their minds and hearts to see something new, something different, something challenging.
They so restrict and confine Jesus by their negative attitude that Jesus can’t even work any miracles, “apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.”
It can be terrible how our belittlement and stereotyping constrains and restricts others from developing and growing. And this is what happened to Jesus in His native place and in His own house.
The challenge today to us is clear. We must not be like the people in today’s Gospel. We must not box in each other with our low expectations and negativity, holding others back from true human flowering. We must not restrict and confine ourselves by our poor expectation and negativity about ourselves, limiting the power of the Holy Spirit in us to make us into Saints. Everyone of us here has the potential and the power to be a Saint! And we must not box in Jesus with limits and small expectations, limiting His power to establish the Kingdom of God in our hearts through faith.
Rather, let us amaze Jesus by our openness to His Word in the Gospel and by the strength of our faith. That is the right way to amaze Jesus. AMEN.