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He continued teaching in other villages (Mk 6: 6). | Gospel of July 7

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Gospel according to Saint Mark 6:1-6:

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

He continued teaching in other villages (Mk 6: 6).

Luis CASASUS President of the Idente Missionaries

Rome, July 07, 2024 | XIV Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ezek 2: 2-5; 2Cor 12: 7b-10; Mk 6: 1-6 

Christ had a very varied and painful experience of being rejected. As he himself teaches, this can happen in three ways: by insult, persecution or defamation. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake (Mt 5: 11). It was to be expected that the powerful, the Pharisees and the doctors of the Law would reject Jesus, but perhaps it is more painful to see today, in the Gospel text, that the simple people of Nazareth also showed their contempt for Christ.

Few sufferings are harder than rejection. In some way, we all have experience of this. Some, by being victims of aggressive messages spread by internet; others, by suffering the effects of camouflaged murmuring, almost always fed by envy; and not a few, by some kind of discrimination, due simply to the fact of confessing the faith with modesty and humility. It is very true that rejection, which goes hand in hand with loss of fame, is a form of death.

In particular, the rejection that many children and young people suffer from their parents is devastating… and they do not believe they are rejecting anyone. The consequences can be irreversible. In families with parents who are immature, selfish, or rarely available to share important issues, there is a lack of a sense of belonging, which young people will inevitably and hastily seek elsewhere, usually in groups that will take advantage of them in some way.

We should not forget that we all reject others in seemingly unimportant ways, without hardly realizing it. Writer Emily Smith gives a clear example:

Every morning, my friend John buys the newspaper from the same street vendor. But they don’t just make a transaction. They take a moment to stop and talk about anything for a few minutes. But one time, John didn’t have exact change, and the vendor told him: Don’t worry. However, John insisted on paying, so he went to the store and bought something he didn’t need to get the change. But when he gave the seller the money, the seller made a gesture of displeasure. He felt hurt. He was trying to make a kind gesture, but John had turned him down.

Other common examples:

* I walk past someone I know and barely say hello.

* I look at the phone when someone is talking to me.

* I change the conversation, even though the other person shows enthusiasm and interest in what he is talking about.

These acts devalue others. They make them feel invisible and unworthy. On the contrary, when we give small signs of welcome, in addition to creating a bond, we prepare the other person to receive God Himself.

Sometimes, there is a permanent rejection, because I see in the other person the behavior or virtues I expected. Even if it is not expressed in words, it is the attitude of the one who sentences within himself: I live my life and you live yours.

We should not forget that the experience of being rejected, or of being afraid of being rejected, is universal and therefore constitutes one more reason not to give anyone signs of harshness, indifference or distance.

—ooOoo—

If we look at the person of Christ, his passage through this world is described in the Gospels several times with Psalm 118: The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone (Mk 12: 10).

Our rejection of Christ is not done by denying his existence or by writing texts contrary to the Gospel. It is precisely so: Accepting him, but NOT as a cornerstone. Making decisions without looking Him in the face, being convinced that today I have not committed concrete faults (contrary to what He says), ignoring His presence in human beings that I consider insensitive or too ignorant, not meditating on the Gospel as I meditate on other matters that attract me and make me curious… are ways of rejecting His person or His word.

On the other hand, it is true that we may feel rejected by people foreign or close to us, as we mentioned before. Faced with this reality, and without forgetting our defects, let us not forget that the Master, who unlike us was clean, was persecuted by those who feared the light and the truth.

It is not that the one who receives the gift of prophecy will be “denouncing” the sins of others. It is enough his personal testimony, the purity of his heart, for others to realize that they are in the darkness. The possible responses, of course, are twofold: a form of rejection, or the recognition that a sinner like him, graced with the gift of prophecy, is transmitting something from God.

For many Christians, the saddest verse in the Gospel is: From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him (Jn 6: 66). And the second saddest is a few verses later: Neither did his brethren believe in him (Jn 7:5).

And one that seems to me one of the happiest, appears today in the First Reading: They, whether they listen to you or not, for they are a rebellious people, will know that there was a prophet in their midst.

It is a wonderful promise, which sometime we have the joy of seeing realized. But, in any case, it means that the testimony of the apostle, if it is sincere, is engraved with fire in the heart of whoever comes across him. One day, suddenly or little by little, the person will recognize that the insignificant disciple of Jesus whom he ignored or mistreated has left him a precious proof of divine love and forgiveness. All this comes to him through a son of man, as Yahweh calls Ezekiel, with those words that mean fragile, weak and ordinary person. The prophetic character of the life of a follower of Christ is an inestimable grace mysteriously granted to one among so many sinners.

It is significant that Christ himself calls himself “the son of man,” to make it clear that he was willing to live in full humility, to transmit God’s will without appealing to his true origin or powers and without belittling or judging anyone. This is not exactly how we do….

This is precisely what St. Paul recognizes in the Second Reading. Having been defamed by some people in Corinth, instead of giving reasons or putting before everyone his merits and spiritual experiences, what he does is to speak of his weakness and show how Providence will not free us from pain or our weaknesses, thus making his power clearly visible.

The apostle-prophet is like Ezekiel, a person who at times is at a loss for words (Ezek 3: 15), at other times he feels weak and frightened, but certain that victory belongs to the kingdom of heaven, as was revealed to Ezekiel himself: I am the Lord; I humble the high tree and raise up the lowly tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree green again. I, the Lord, have spoken and I will do it (Ezek 17: 24).

Let us observe that Jesus is rejected NOT because of what he says, but because people do not believe that he has authority, they cannot explain where “this wisdom and these miracles” come from. So it happens to us: Christ always comes to you and me with something new, unexpected. He requires us to take a step, to abandon some custom, some habit that we did not consider negative or dangerous. Even if Jesus did not speak, the miracles he performs, his way of doing good are something new, something that gives insecurity to those of us who believe we are just, hard-working, different.

Thus, Ezekiel, Paul and Jesus Christ, in the eyes of the world, are three cases of failure, because the way to measure success is the number of followers, good fame and the favorable response of the people. But that does not necessarily mean the conversion of hearts. Everything seemed to be going well in Jesus’ visit to Nazareth… until the Sabbath began to speak in the Synagogue, to illuminate how the Father’s will goes further. The same happens to us when Providence asks us to enter uncomfortable, unexpected terrain and asks us to be more patient, more humble, more generous, more sincere, more….

Christ tells us today that a prophet receives honor everywhere except among his own people and among his relatives and his own family. But with this way of speaking he is not making a simple geographical or consanguinity reference, because those of us who have had the privilege of knowing the Master and people who have been faithful to his Word, we are among his relatives, we are those who are close to him, those who have not completely believed.

We reject God and we reject our neighbor. Surely there are cases in which we do both things at the same time, when the Holy Spirit tries to suggest something to us through the life of a person, who may be a child, or someone we consider immature, or perhaps a dying person. There are many feelings that can make us blind to that special presence of God in a creature, which becomes a prophecy for us.

One last point: Jesus’ unbelieving countrymen do not mention Joseph; they only recognize Jesus as “son of Mary”. This suggests that Joseph had died long ago, which is consistent with the fact that Christ remained in charge of the family until very late, until he was 30 years old. He did not leave home earlier, even though so many were waiting for his redemptive message. That is why people identified him well as “the carpenter”. He had been faithful in the little things, in the quiet and humble work of a craftsman, and that is why God the Father placed in his hands the central mission of his coming to this world, the change of our hearts.

The success of our mission is not measured by looking at others, at the number of people who listen to us or participate in the activities we organize. Nor in the intimate satisfaction of seeing souls change; all that comes and goes. My success is not mine; it is the work of the Holy Spirit. My mission is not to be an obstacle to the power of the Spirit, as St. Paul also says to the Corinthians:

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses, in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger, in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love (2 Cor 6: 3-6).

In this way, today’s Gospel text ends by saying that Jesus’ fellow countrymen were indeed an obstacle to his being able to perform the miracles he desired, beyond the healings they allowed him to perform. And he continued teaching in the nearby villages (Mk 1: 6). He did not stop.

_______________________________

In the Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

Luis CASASUS

President