In this Sunday’s Gospel, we see that the people’s “certainty” prevented them from seeing the gift that was being offered to them.
“Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!” —Mark 6:2
If someone were to ask you who Jesus is, how would you answer? Would you begin to think of a beloved childhood image or a statue in your parish church? Perhaps you might recall a theological word or phrase that speaks to you of his divine and human natures, of the Incarnation, and the Paschal Mystery. Many of us might recall stories of Jesus recounted in the Scriptures. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have all these possibilities competing for your attention because each is valid and good, in its way.
Our Gospel this Sunday seems to indicate that the people of Jesus’ hometown thought they knew exactly who he was. After all, they had watched him grow up. His parents were their neighbors and they knew his extended family. And so, when Jesus broke out of the “box” they had made for him, they “took offense.” Their experiences of him—what they knew—limited their ability to see the presence of God within Jesus or to recognize God’s power at work among them. Sadly, Mark implies, they were satisfied with the small, limited knowledge of Jesus because they thought they knew all there was to know about him.
Our Gospel Readings this Sunday and next mark a turning point in St. Mark’s Gospel. Jesus is now ready to set out with the Twelve and begin his work of proclaiming the Reign of God. Up to this point, the Gospel of Mark has been trying to help us reflect on who this Jesus is and on what his mission will mean for the People of Israel and for the entire world. And now, we see Jesus setting out—leaving the nest, as it were—because, as St. Mark tells us,
“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.
The people’s “certainty” prevented them from seeing the gift that was being offered to them. To say it another way, their certainty eclipsed the possibility of faith.
Ordinary Time is a season of growth when the Readings of the Mass encourage us to expand our understanding of who and what Jesus is, even as they call us to conversion and to the hard of work of helping build up God’s Kingdom through our works of mercy and justice. While we might know these stories from Scripture by heart, the Holy Spirit is always speaking to us, inviting us to enter into the mysteries of our faith in new ways. As Pope Francis has reminded us time and again, our God is a God of surprises. This week, we are being invited to open our minds and hearts to a new encounter with Jesus and to allow ourselves to be surprised by grace.
When has your “certainty” prevented your from being open to something new and life-giving?
What images and stories of Jesus do you hold onto that might be preventing you from entering into a deeper relationship with him?
What story from the Gospel challenges your faith and understanding of Jesus and his message?
Words of Wisdom: “They said: Is this not the son of Mary, and of Joseph the carpenter? Now kings and rulers worship him as Son of the true God, and himself true God, and he has glorified and continues to glorify those who worship him in spirit and in truth.”—St. Symeon the “New Theologian”