14 Sunday B: Jesus Spoke with Authority – Prophets
The gospel passage for this Sunday is St Mark’s version of Jesus’ return to his home town of Nazareth, accompanied by his disciples. He began to teach in Nazareth, and many were astonished by what they saw in him. They wondered where all this wisdom had come from. What they saw was very different from what others had seen. This man was one of them, in the deepest sense; they knew him and his family. The people of the town would not accept him; even though they had heard of his outstanding accomplishments in other places, they could not see what made him so special.
The story of what happened to Jesus when he decided to return to his town is a familiar story, one that happens to all of us: we achieve wonderful things far away from home – in another city, or perhaps in some other part of the world, where we are not well known; then the time comes when we know we must return to our own country and teach there, and we find that people at home do not see us in the same way.
As you reflect on this passage, you may find yourself identifying with the people who rejected Jesus because he was so well known to them. Or you may prefer to identify with Jesus, remembering times when you or others had an experience like his. If you are taking this approach you might like to read it as a necessary journey of “returning to reality”. Feel free, also, to read the story symbolically, taking “going home” to mean the journey to the deepest truth of ourselves.
“The false idealist skips over the real. He skips the mediation of time in order to land full-blown in the ideal, ultimate society where everything is taken care of. He dreams, he does not hope.” Jacques Ellul
Lord, we remember with gratitude
the time we had a deep experience of conversion
and then had to make a journey back to everyday life:
– we made a Life-in-the-Spirit seminar;
– we went to confession after a long time away from the sacraments;
– we attended a meeting of our religious community and returned all fired up.
The time came when, like Jesus,
we had to leave that beautiful place and return home.
Naturally enough, people were astonished when they heard us speak;
they asked sarcastically what was this new wisdom
that had suddenly been granted us,
what miracles did we expect to be worked through us.
We were no different from what we had been before, they told us,
and our parents, our brothers and sisters were there to remind us of this.
We were amazed to see that our own enthusiasm was not universally shared.
But today, Lord, we thank you for that experience;
it taught us that we cannot work miracles overnight.
We may feel a lot of enthusiasm within ourselves,
but that does not mean we can get others to see things as we do.
Sometimes we have to be content, as Jesus was, to cure a few sick people
by laying our hands on them.
“Humility is the virtue by which, knowing ourselves as we really are, we become lowly in our own eyes.” … St Bernard
Lord, the biggest obstacles to conversion always lie within ourselves.
We don’t like facing up to this, but, like Jesus,
we must eventually leave the far away place and come home.
There, as Jesus did, we will hear voices coming from deep inside,
and these voices will be questioning us:
– do we really think that miracles can be worked through us?
– are not our parents, our brothers and sisters there to show us
that we are not different from what we were?
A whole part of ourselves rejects this new direction we are taking
and we are amazed at our lack of faith.
But Jesus taught us that a moment of grace is always resisted
by our long-standing relationships and within our deeper selves.
Lord, help us to make our journey of grace with Jesus,
to accept that we cannot work any great miracles on ourselves,
and to be content that we can lay our hands on some wounds and heal them.
“If people regarded me as a Messiah they were living in a fool’s paradise. I have no miracles.” … Nelson Mandela
Lord, our leaders often prefer to play a role in foreign countries
where they are more respected than in their own.
So, too, church leaders sometimes enjoy being present in other communities
where they are not well known.
Many of us feel more comfortable
away from our families or religious communities,
among people who only see part of who we are.
Help us to leave those far away places from time to time,
and to go to our home town,
like Jesus did, among our relatives and in our own homes,
even though we may feel despised.
We may not be able to work any great miracles,
but there are always a few sick people who need us
to lay our hands on them so that they may be cured.
“God only comes to those who, in patience, love his fore-runners and the provisional. ” K. Rahner
Lord, how often you have sent Jesus to us in the form of someone we knew well,
but this person was just too ordinary for us.
All we could see was the carpenter, the son of our neighbour,
one whose brothers and sisters were there with us,
and so we would not accept him.
How true it is, as Jesus said, that a prophet is only despised in his own country,
among his own relations and in his own house.
So the great miracle you had in store for us could not be worked.
Lord, have mercy.
“ We all want to be famous people and the moment we want to be something we are no longer free.” … Krishnamurthi
Lord, we want to do great deeds.
Free us from all ambition,
so that when we cannot work miracles
we will be content to cure a few sick people by laying hands on them.
Introduction to the Celebration
When we assemble each week on Sunday, we are continuing an earlier tradition of God’s people who met on Saturday – the Sabbath. For the Jews, the Sabbath was, and is, the day to rejoice in the goodness of God in creating the universe, and our human family. The first Christians moved the celebration to Sunday as this day was seen as the day of resurrection: God’s great act of restoring and renewing the creation in Jesus.
But whether it is celebrating the creation of all by God, or the renewal of all in Christ, the celebrations have some common elements: the people are to recall God’s love in a meal and in reading the scriptures. For the Jews, the meal takes place in their homes on Friday evenings and they gather on Saturday to hear the Law and pray. We listen to the scriptures first, what we call the New Law, and then have our meal together here.
Today we recall that Jesus entered the assembly on the Sabbath in his home town; we believe that he is here among us in this assembly today. Let us recall his presence, and pray that he may find us a community of faith.
In this short unit of text, Mark summarises several themes that he has already preached in his gospel: the question of discipleship and faith; Jesus as teacher; Jesus as miracle worker/healer; and Jesus as the prophet. Now his gospel reaches a climactic moment. At the end of all his teaching and miracles in Galilee we have a snapshot of reaction to him: his home town, Nazareth, rejects him. This rejection by his own people, his own people in the sense of those he grew up with, those who knew him and his family, presages the greater rejection that comes at the crucifixion.
Underlying the whole scene is the question of what is it to know Jesus and accept him, and this question is framed in terms of faith. They cannot accept this individual as a prophet even if they are amazed at him, and their rejection is seen as unbelief.
1. Who are we following when we say we are ‘Christians’? The question seems so obvious that most of us think it a silly question even to ask: it’s obviously ‘Jesus’, isn’t it? But the question is not silly, nor is the answer obvious, because who Jesus is and what he means to us is far from obvious. Indeed, it is because it is anything but obvious that there have been so many disputes down the centuries among Christians, and there is a whole branch of Christian theology called ‘christology’.
2. Let us begin by noting that most people like ‘to keep it simple’ — and that means they imagine there should be a simple answer to the question ‘who is Jesus?’ — but the reality is that life is complex, and the more any issue involves human beings, the more complex life becomes. Everyone knows that her/his human relationships are complex — how many of us can say ‘I know myself!’ — so why think that understanding Jesus is easy?
3. The situation recorded in today’s gospel shows a reaction that must have been widespread: the local people have Jesus in one box in their imaginations: he is the guy from down the road
—they know him, his brothers and sisters, and his background. For anyone who comes from their town they have a box for what they expect for and from that person: fine to get him to do a job for you, fine to go to the well with his sisters, fine to engage with them socially. That’s all there is to them: another family, just like us, and they should not think of themselves as anything special. So if Jesus stands up and presents himself as a leader, that is just not on!
On the other hand, they have heard him in the synagogue: he comes across as one filled with wisdom, he is a teacher like they have heard, he speaks in a way they have always imagined a prophet would speak. They have another box marked ‘prophet’ and he seems to fit there too! But that box comes with a label: prophets are very distant from everyday life, they are exceptional in every way, they are ‘not like us’.
So when these people find that Jesus ticking both the box marked ‘prophet’ and ticking the box marked ‘ordinary bloke’ / ‘regular guy’ /’one of our own,’ they cannot cope with this complexity. So, since they are more sure that he is the guy down the road, they reject him as a prophet.
4. Faith is the ability to imagine that God’s goodness is greater and closer than the bits-and-pieces around us and the ups-anddowns of life. In this case, faith was the ability to imagine that God was so close that Jesus was both the guy from down the road and the great prophet and the wise teacher and more besides. But the group could not make that leap of imagination —and Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.
5. Would we have been among that group that could not imagine that God’s goodness was that close?
6. Surely not! After all, we are Christians, who publicly declare our faith in Jesus each week in the creed.
7. But we have problems of our own in imagining the goodness of God coming close to us in Jesus.
8. For many people, it is fine to think of Jesus as a wise teacher —a proclaimer of great religious or moral truths — and as such one who should inspire us to high ideals. This is all true, but is there a label on that box which says: ‘Not needed on a day-to-day basis in life’?
This incident reports what happened when Jesus returned home to Nazareth for the first time after beginning his public ministry and having much success all around Galilee. It continues to deal with the topic of faith and obstacles to it. As in Luke’s account, the beginning is quite promising. Jesus amazes them by his teaching in the synagogue but their amazement quickly turns to resistance as their supposed knowledge of him convinces them that he could not possibly be anyone special. The reference to his brothers is usually understood in the Catholic tradition as meaning his kin or cousins. In Greek Orthodox circles, there is a tradition that Joseph had children by an earlier marriage and these are Jesus’ stepbrothers. The lack of faith that Jesus encounters leads the evangelist to comment that he could do no miracle there and that he was amazed at their lack of faith.
Ezekiel and Paul both provide us with a valuable lesson in discipleship in these readings. Their work for God brings them into situations that they would not choose for themselves and appears on occasions to meet with failure. However, they have both learned that if they keep their focus on the Lord of the work then they need have no worries about their work for the Lord.
All their experiences can be of service to him if undergone in a spirit of humble faith. Similarly, it is the lack of just such a humble faith that prohibits the spread of the kingdom in Nazareth.
From Father James Gilhooley
The bishop asked the monsignor, “How was my homily?” The msgr: “You were brief.” The bp: “I try never to be tiresome. The msgr: “You were tiresome too.”
The nineteenth century English poet, Alfred Tennyson, wrote: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” Was that a cute throwaway line or did Lord Tennyson know something we do not? The answer to our question is to be found in the prayer life of Jesus.
During boyhood, Mary and Joseph annually took the Child to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover in the Great Temple. It was a costly journey for this working class family. And don’t forget exhaustion. We speak about a five day walk over ninety miles. The sun would blister them in the day and the nights would deep freeze them. But each year, faithful as the sunrise, they loaded the old donkey and moved south. When He became a Man, Jesus continued to go to Jerusalem for the solemn feast.
Furthermore, every Saturday in Nazareth the Master picked up His weekly contribution envelope and took Himself to His synagogue or parish. Like most Jews, He was tithing 10% of His income. Anything less He would consider a tip. There He worshipped publicly and received instructions. This procedure He followed till He knocked the dust of Nazareth off His sandals for good at about age 30.
But the Gospel record shows He continued weekly public worship after leaving His home town. Today Mark explicitly mentions His presence in a synagogue. The next time you want to skip weekend Mass, you might want to dwell on this point. Perhaps a line from Saint Padre Pio might help: “If we understood the Eucharist, we would risk our life to get to Mass.
With the above as evidence, one must conclude the Teacher has little patience with many self-deceived men and women. These are the folks who say that, while they do not go to Sunday Liturgy, they do worship God at home in their own way. If such worship was not kosher for the Christ, how can it be acceptable for any of us today?
Some wannabe intellectuals say, “If the homilies were better, I would go.” The only answer for that is the response of the grizzled old pastor, “If it’s laughs you want, catch a TV comic. If worship, I’m your man.”
Can you imagine the number of dull sermons Jesus of Nazareth must have been subjected to over thirty-three years? How many times must He have put His knuckle deep into His mouth to stifle laughter at some theological gaffe from a well-meaning rabbi? Yet, He faithfully went each Saturday.
“I don’t go to church because there are so many hypocrites there.” Do you really think there were no such deadbeats around the Teacher during His public worship days? Incidentally, we always have room for one more hypocrite. And, as Andrew Greeley puts it, “If you can find a perfect church, join it. But realize that as soon as you do, it ceases to be perfect.”
Deadly homilies and hypocrites notwithstanding, the Nazarene felt obliged to go to public worship. To paraphrase CS Lewis, he wanted to tune into the secret wireless of God. If Christ did all this, so of course should you and I.
An even careless reading of the Gospels reveal that the Teacher invested His time in private prayer as well. It was a given that every Jewish family would have a schedule of daily private prayer. This would be particularly true at meals. This custom Jesus continued to the end as the Last Supper indicates.
His public ministry had to be very busy. Yet, He put aside quality time for private prayer. Check it out in Luke. He writes: “Crowds pressed on Him. But He retired to a mountain and prayed.” In Mark: “In the morning, He got up, left the house, and went off to a lonely place, and prayed there.”
If the Master had not spent so much time in public and private prayer, He could have cured so many more hundreds, if not thousands, of their physical ailments.
One must thereby conclude He considered prayer not a luxury item but a necessity. It is a must-do for us. Matthew and John tell us the servant is not greater than the master and the pupil not greater than the teacher. Given the example of the Nazarene, why then do we assign prayer to the fringes of our lives? Why is it not one of the essentials of our brief existence?
“To pray is,” as Ralph Sockman wrote, “to expose the shore of the mind to the incoming tide of God.”
From the Connections:
THE WORD: Mark begins a new theme in his Gospel with today’s pericope: the blindness of people to the power and authority of Jesus. The people of Jesus’ own hometown reject his message. They consider Jesus too much “one of them” to be taken seriously. They are too obsessed with superficialities — occupation, ancestry, origins — to realize God present in their midst and to be affected by that presence.
HOMILY POINTS: The authority that Jesus’ hearers sense in him is an authority and wisdom that transcends office or title or economic power; it is an authority rooted in wisdom that comes from experience and a lived commitment to do what is right and just.
Jesus’ authority is not derived from his ability to manipulate the fears, suspicions, apathy or ignorance of those around him but from the spirit of mercy, justice and compassion he is able to call forth from them.
Like the people of Jesus’ hometown, we often fail to realize the presence of God in our very midst. God dwells in our midst in the simplest acts of kindness, in the humblest efforts of compassion for others, in the singular attempts to secure the justice and peace of God in hidden and forgotten places.
In embracing discipleship, we take on the role of prophet – “one who proclaims.” To be a prophet, to “proclaim” the Word we have heard, can result in our being ostracized, ridiculed, rejected and isolated. But genuine faith never falters in the conviction that the justice of God will triumph over injustice, that his mercy will triumph over hatred, that his light will triumph over the darkness of sin and death.
‘To look my kids in the eye’ He was an accountant at a hospital run by a major health care corporation. His employers had asked him to keep two sets of books, one to show the Medicare auditors for reimbursement and the other marked CONFIDENTIAL – Do Not Discuss or Release to Medicare Auditors. He refused to go along with the fraud and was fired. He sued the company for wrongful termination; in the process, he discovered that the company was doing the same thing at hundreds of hospitals. He filed a “whistle-blower” complaint with the appropriate government authorities. The case dragged through the courts for years, and during all that time he was unemployed and unemployable before he was finally vindicated, awarded a large financial settlement and an acknowledgment of the truth of his allegations. The corporation had to pay out more than one billion dollars in fines, penalties and reimbursements.
What gave him the courage and determination to do what he did at great personal cost?
He knew who he was working for.
He was not working for the greedy, dishonest corporate executives who signed his paycheck. He was working for his sick and injured neighbors who sought care at a hospital where they believed their well-being would be that hospital’s chief concern. As an accountant, he was working for American taxpayers, keeping the health care provider accountable for the Medicare dollars entrusted to them.
And he was working to maintain a sense of himself as an honest man. He writes:
“There were many, many times when I had to ask myself: Why am I doing this? You don’t always know why, but you see your kids and you realize you may have lost your job, your career, most of your savings, everything you’ve worked for, but if you ever lose their respect, it’s something that cannot be replaced. I knew that when it was over, no matter how it turned out, I wanted to be able to look my kids in the eye and tell them that truth and honesty really do matter.”
[Jim Alderson, writing in The Rotarian, January 2004.]
Authority is so much more than words; it is the lived commitment to one’s beliefs. Authentic authority is not invested by virtue of office or title or economic power, but by the wisdom that comes from experience and a commitment to do what is right and just that transcends expectations. Such is the “authority” of the Rabbi Jesus of the Gospels. The source of Jesus’ “authority” is not the ability to manipulate his hearer’s suspicions, apathy or ignorance, but to call forth from them a commitment to mercy, justice and compassion. Those who speak not to our emotions and wants but to our consciences, who speak not in catchy slogans and buzz words but in the convictions of their experience, who share with us from the wealth of their own hard work and study possess the “authority” that is of God, an authority that is worthy of our respect and attentiveness.
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:
1 : R e v. D e a c on P r o p h e t : T h e r e is t h e s t o ry a b o u t a b i s h op wh o w a s i n t e r v i e w i n g a s e n i o r s e m i n a ri a n b efo r e h i s o r d i n a t i o n a s d e a c on , a n d a s k e d h im whe re h e w o u l d like to be a ss i gne d a s a d e ac o n fo r past o r a l trai n i ng . T h e s e mi n aria n said , s o m ewh a t b o ldl y , “O h , my b i s h o p , a n y w he r e b u t N e w C a n aa n! ” ” W h y no t t he r e , ” t h e bi s h o p a s k e d? ” Y o u k n o w ,” t h e s e mi n a rian a n s w e r e d , ” T h a t ’ s m y ho m e t o w n – – a n d w e a ll k n o w t h a t ‘ a p r o p he t is n o t w i t ho u t h o nor e x c e pt in h i s n a t i v e p l a c e . ’ ” T h e b i s h o p r e p li e d , ” D o n ‘t w o rry my f r i e n d ! Nobody in y o u r h o m e t o w n is g o i n g to c o n f u s e you w ith a prop h e t.”
2 : Do n ’ t all o w r e j e c ti o n to d e rail yo u r dr e a m s : B rillia n t B riti s h T heo l o g i a n G . K . C he s t e rt o n c o u l d no t r e a d u n til h e w a s e i gh t y e a r s o l d . A t e a c he r s a i d if h i s he a d w e re o p e n e d t he y wo u l d p r o b a b l y f i n d a l u mp o f f a t w he r e t he r e w a s s u pp o s e d to be a br a i n . T h a t t e a c h e r w a s w r o n g . E i n s t e i n ’ s p a r en t s we r e i n fo r m e d by a t e a c he r t h a t h e wo u l d ne v e r a m o un t to a n y t h i n g . F o r T h e Tale o f P e t e r Rabbi t , B e a t ri x Pot t e r r e c e i v e d s e v e n r e j e c t i o n s li p s b efo r e f i n d i n g a p u b li s he r . R i c h a r d B a c h g o t t w e n ty r e j e c t ion s lips b e fore J o n a t h an Li v i n g s t o n S e a g u ll w a s p u b li s h e d . D r. S e uss , o n e o f t h e m o s t p o p u l a r c h il d r e n ’ s au t h o r s o f a l l tim e , g o t m o re t h an t w o d o z e n r e j e c t i o n s lips b e fo re T h e C a t in t h e H a t ma d e it to pri n t. Ru th G r a h am f e lt an u n c o n trollable u r g e to r u n o u t o f t h e m e e ti n g t h e f i r s t time s h e h e ard B illy pr e a c h . S h e w a s n o t u n d e r c o nv i c t i on . S h e w a s p u t of f by h i s p r e a c h i n g s t y l e . B il l y h a d to i m p r o v e h i s p r e a c h i n g b e f o r e Ru th w o u ld b e c o m e h i s w i f e . T o da y ’ s g o s p e l t e ll s u s h o w J e su s e n c o u n t e r e d r e j e c t i o n w i t h p r o p h e t i c c o u r a g e .
3 : G o od n e ws t o t h e p oo r! B u t a re w e p oo r? M o t h e r T e r e s a t h i n ks s o . T he r e w a s a b e a u t i f u l a r t i c l e a b o u t he r in T i m e maga z i n e . S h e w a s a s k e d a b o u t t h e m a t e ri a li s m o f t h e W e s t . ” T h e m o re yo u h a ve , t h e m o re y o u a re o c c u p i e d , ” s h e c o n t en d e d , ” b u t t h e l e s s yo u h a v e t h e f r ee r yo u a r e . P o ve rty fo r u s is a f r e e d o m. I t is a j oyf u l f r ee d o m . T h e r e is n o t e l e v i s i o n he r e , n o t h i s , n o t h a t. T h i s is t h e on ly f a n in t h e w ho l e h o u s e … a n d it is f o r t h e g u e s t s . B u t w e a re h a ppy.” S h e c o n ti n u e d , ” I fi n d t h e ri c h poo r e r. So m e tim e s t h e y a re l o ne l i e r i n s i d e … T h e h un ge r for love is m uc h more d i f f i c u l t to fill t h an t h e h u n g e r for b r e a d … T h e r e al p oo r k no w w h a t is j oy. ” W he n a s k e d a b o u t he r p l a n s fo r t h e f u t u r e , s h e r e p li e d , ” I jus t t a ke o n e da y . Y e s t e r da y is g o n e . T o m o rr o w h a s n o t c o m e . We h a v e o n l y t o da y to l o v e J e sus . ” I s t he re a n y o n e in t h i s r oo m a s ric h a s M o t h e r T e r e sa?
4 : Rejection resulting in the resignation: T he r e w a s a fe u d b e t w e e n t h e P a s t o r a n d t h e C h o ir D ir e c t o r o f a S o u t h e r n B a p t i s t p a ri s h . T h e f i r s t h i n t o f t r o u b l e c a me w h e n t h e P a s t o r p r e a c he d o n “ D e d i c a t i ng o n e s e lf t o s e r v i c e ” a n d t h e Cho ir D ir e c t o r c ho s e to s i ng : “I S h all Not B e Mo v e d ” . T r y i n g to b e li e v e it w a s a c o i n c i d en c e , t h e P a s t or p u t t h e i n c i d en t b eh i n d h im. T h e n e x t S u n d a y h e p r e a c h e d on “ g i v i n g ” . A f t e r w a r d s , t h e c ho i r s q u ir m e d a s t h e d ir e c t o r l e d t h e m in t h e h y m n : ” J e su s P a id I t All ” B y t h i s tim e , t h e P a s t o r w a s l o s i n g h i s t e m p e r . S u n d a y m o r n i n g a t t en da n c e s w e l l e d a s t h e t en s i o n b e t w e e n t h e t w o b eg a n p u b li c . A l a r g e c r ow d s h o w e d u p t h e n e xt w ee k to he a r h i s s e r m o n o n t h e “ s in of g o ss i p i n g ”. Wo u ld you b e li e v e t h e C h oir Dir e c t or s e l e c t e d : ” I L ov e T o T e ll t h e S t o r y . ” T he r e w a s n o t u r n i n g b a c k. T h e fo l l o w i n g S u n d a y t h e P a s t o r t o ld t h e c o ng r e g a t i o n t h a t u n l e s s s o m e t h i n g c h a n ge d h e w a s c o n s i d e r i n g r e s i gn a t i o n . T h e e n ti r e c h u r c h g a s p e d w h e n t h e C ho ir D ir e c t o r l e d t he m i n : “ W h y No t T o n i g h t .” T r u t hf u ll y , n o o n e w a s s u r p ri s e d whe n t h e P a s t o r r e s i g n e d a w e e k l a t e r , e x p l a i n i n g t h a t J e su s h a d l e d h im t he re a n d J e su s w a s l e ad i n g h i m a w a y . T h e C h o ir D i r e c t o r c o u ld n o t r e s i s t s i n g i n g : ” W h a t a Fri e n d We Ha v e I n J e su s .”
5 : Rejection at the Pearly Gate, too: A c a b d ri v e r r e a c he s t h e P e a rl y G a t e s a n d a nno u n c e s h i s p r e s en c e to S t . Pe t e r , wh o l o o k s h im u p in h i s B ig B o o k. U p o n r e a d i n g t h e e n try f o r t h e c a bb y , S t . Pe t e r i n v i t e s h im to g r a b a sil k r o b e a n d a g o l d e n sta f f a n d t o pr o c ee d i n t o H e a v e n . A p r e a c he r is ne xt in li n e b eh i n d t h e c a bby a n d h a s b e e n w a t c h i ng t he s e p r o c e e d i ng s w i t h i n t e r e s t . H e a n no u n c e s h i m s e l f to S t . Pe t e r . U p o n s c a nn i n g t h e p r e a c h e r ‘ s en try i n t h e B ig Boo k, S t . Pe t e r f u rr o w s h i s brow a n d s a y s , ” O kay, we ‘ll l e t you i n , b u t take t h at c o tton robe a n d woo d e n s t a ff . ” T h e p r e a c he r is a s t o n i s h e d a n d r e p l i e s , ” B u t I a m a m a n o f t h e cl o t h . Y o u g a v e t h a t ca b dri v e r a g o l d sta f f a n d a sil k r o b e . S u r e ly, I rate h i g h e r t h an a c a bby.” St. Pe t e r r e s p o n d e d mat t e r – o f – f a c t l y : ” H e re w e a re i n t e r e s t e d in r e s u l t s . W h e n yo u p r e a c he d , p e o p l e s l e p t . W h e n t h e c a bby d r o v e h i s t a xi, p e o p l e p r a y e d . ” L / 12.
23- Additional anecdotes:
# 1: Preachers rejected: Ezekiel and Jesus. Ezekiel was called to be both priest and prophet to his people during the most devastating time in their history. Six short years after he began preaching to them in the year 593 B.C., the holy city of Jerusalem was captured and destroyed, and just about every last person in Israel was carried off in chains to exile in Babylon. What is worse, Ezekiel saw it coming and told people. He told them it was God’s way of punishing them for being so thick-skulled and hard-hearted (3.7). Predictably, they refused to listen. This was the good news according to Ezekiel! This was the hand God asked this preacher to play! The chosen people didn’t believe him, of course, even when the Babylonians started setting fire to their homes and hacking down the carved pillars in their beautiful temple. They stubbornly denied the truth about themselves the whole time they were dragged off, kicking and screaming to Babylon. And it was not until there, years later, with no Temple in which to offer sacrifice and no other sacred rituals permitted to them that they began meeting in Ezekiel’s house (8.1), where this bug-eyed prophet also learned how to become their priest. Softened up by the experience of desolation they could no longer deny, they began, for the first time, to listen to this old friend who had never given up on them and who reminded them of the God Who had no intention of giving up on them either. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus, the real Messiah, was rejected by the people of his hometown, Nazareth.
# 2: Scientist rejected: George Washington Carver was an African-American scientist who did some pioneering work on the lowly peanut. In January 1921, he was called before the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives to explain his work. He expected such a high-level committee to handle the business at hand with him and those who had come with him with dignity and proper decorum. He was shocked when the speakers who preceded him were treated very rudely. As an African-American, he was the last one on the list, and so after three days of waiting, he finally got to make his presentation. He was shocked when he noticed one of the members with his hat on and feet on the table. When the Chairman asked him to take off his hat, the member said out loud, “Down where I come from, we don’t accept a black man’s testimony. And furthermore, I don’t see what this fellow can say that would have any bearing on the work of this committee.” At this point, George was ready to turn around and go home, but he said to himself, as he wrote in his autobiography, “Whatever they said of me, I knew that I was a child of God, and so I prayed ‘Almighty God, let me carry out your will’”. He got to the podium and was told that he had 20 minutes to speak. Well, his presentation was so engaging that he was granted several extensions until he had spoken for several hours. At the end of his talk, everyone on the committee stood and applauded him. (“More Telling Stories, Compelling Stories” by William J. Bausch).
3) The vocation of the prophet and the fear of rejection: John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States and the son of a former President, reportedly said that he would rather clean filth from the street than become the President. The Old Testament tells us that most of the prophets shared John Quincy Adams’ hesitation about their calling, probably for fear of rejection or failure. Moses tried to convince God that he stammered and, hence, could not become Israel’s leader. Jeremiah complained to God that he was too young. The prophets trembled at the trials ahead of them and that with good reason. (II Chr 36:16, Jer 2:30, Am 2:12, Mt 23:37, Lk 13:34, I Thes 2:15, Heb 11:32 ff.). Jeremiah was threatened with death several times, thrown into a dry cistern, imprisoned, dragged off to exile in Egypt, and, perhaps most painful of all, was forced to watch the destruction of Jerusalem because its inhabitants would not listen to his message. At least twice in his lifetime, the prophet Elijah gave the warning of God to King Ahab concerning the king’s promotion of idolatry. As a result, Elijah was forced to flee into the wilderness where he suffered great privation (I Kg 16:29- 17:3; I Kg 18:16 – 19:4). Today’s Gospel gives another example of why the prophets did not jump for joy at their career prospects. It describes in five sentences how the people of Nazareth turned from amazement to furious indignation at Jesus’ statement of the truth hinting that he was the promised Messiah. Speaking God’s truth is a risky business even today. It results in arrests and persecution in Communist and Islamic countries. Insulting the religious beliefs and practices of Christians is perpetrated in developed countries in the name of the freedom of speech.
4) A prophet is not accepted in his own country: When Martin Luther King, Jr., came preaching to the people in our country, he did not say anything new. His message was 200 years old, as given in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold it to be self-evident, that all people are created equal.” Dr. King looked out and saw people who were not treated as equals. He perceived others for whom this truth was not self-evident. So, he went from city to city and said, “Today is the day when we will take seriously our own Declaration of Independence.” Gunshots rang out and cut him down. Why? What radical act did he commit which took his life? In the tradition of the Bible’s prophets, he reminded people of what they already knew and said, “Today is the day.”
5) Good news to the poor! But are we poor? Mother Teresa thinks so. There was a beautiful article about her in Time magazine. She was asked about the materialism of the West. “The more you have, the more you are occupied,” she contends. “But the less you have the freer you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is a joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. This is the only fan in the whole house…and it is for the guests. But we are happy. “I find the rich poorer,” she continues. “Sometimes they are lonelier inside…The hunger for love is much more difficult to fill than the hunger for bread…The real poor know what joy is.” When asked about her plans for the future, she replied, “I just take one day. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come. We have only today to love Jesus.” Is there anyone in this Church as rich as Mother Teresa?
6) Rejected scientists: Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist widely, regarded as the most important scientist of the 20th century. He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect in 1905 and “for his services to Theoretical Physics.” Most of us take Albert Einstein’s name as synonymous with genius, but he didn’t always show such promise. Einstein did not speak until he was four and did not read until he was seven, causing his teachers and parents to think him mentally handicapped, slow and anti-social. Eventually, he was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. In 1905, the University of Bern flunked a Ph.D. dissertation because it was fanciful and irrelevant. The young Ph.D. student who received the bad news was Albert Einstein. Thomas Edison developed many devices which greatly influenced life in the 20th century. Edison is considered one of the most prolific inventors in history, holding 1,093 U.S patents to his name. But in his early years, teachers told Thomas Edison that he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Work was no better, as he was fired from his first two jobs for not being productive enough. Even as an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. Of course, all those unsuccessful attempts finally resulted in the design that worked. Isaac Newton was the greatest English mathematician of his generation. His work on optics and gravitation made him one of the greatest scientists the world has even known. Many thought that Isaac was born a genius, but he wasn’t! When he was young, he did very poorly in grade school, so poorly that his teachers were clueless as to how to improve his grades. When he was put in charge of running the family farm, he failed miserably, so poorly in fact that an uncle took charge and sent him off to Cambridge where he finally blossomed into the scholar we know today. In his early years, Charles Darwin gave up on having a medical career and was often chastised by his father for being lazy and too dreamy. Darwin himself wrote, “I was considered by all my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect.” Perhaps they judged too soon, as Darwin today is well-known for his theory The Evolution of Species. …most people would agree that he caught on pretty well in the end. (http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/02/16/50-famously-successful-people-who-failed-at-first/). And in 1864 Darwin was awarded the Copley Medal, then the greatest honor in science. The award was for: “his important researches in geology, zoology, and botanical physiology.” [“Charles Darwin.” Famous Scientists. famousscientists.org. 15 Nov. 2015. Web. 6/8/2018 (www.famousscientists.org/charles-darwin/]
7) Rejected politicians: Winston Churchill: This Nobel Prize-winning, twice-elected Prime Minster of the United Kingdom wasn’t always as well regarded as he is today. Churchill struggled in school and failed the sixth grade. In 1894, the rhetoric teacher at Harrow in England wrote on a 16-year old’s grade card: “A conspicuous lack of success.” The name on the top of the card was that of young Winston Churchill. After school he faced many years of political failures, as he was defeated in every election for public office until he finally became the Prime Minister at the ripe old age of 62. Abraham Lincoln: While today he is remembered as one of the greatest leaders of our nation, Lincoln’s life wasn’t so easy. He received no more than 5 years of formal education throughout his lifetime. In his youth he went to war a captain and returned a private (if you’re not familiar with military ranks, just know that private is as low as it goes.) Lincoln joined politics and had 12 major failures before he was elected the 16th President of the United States of America. (http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/02/16/50-famously-successful-people-who-failed-at-first/)
8) Rejected business men: Henry Ford: His first two automobile companies failed. That did not stop him from incorporating Ford Motor Company and being the first to apply the technique of assembly-line manufacturing to the production of affordable automobiles in the world. He not only revolutionized industrial production in the United States and Europe, he also had enormous influence over the 20th century economy and society. His combination of mass production, high wages and low prices to consumers initiated a management school known as “Fordism.” He became one of the three most famous and richest men in the world during his time. But his early businesses failed and left him broke five times before he founded the successful Ford Motor Company. Bill Gates didn’t seem like a shoe-in for success after dropping out of Harvard and starting a failed first business with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen called Traf-O-Data. While this early idea didn’t work, Gates’ later work did, creating the global empire that is Microsoft. Today Walt Disney rakes in billions from merchandise, movies and theme parks around the world, but Walt Disney himself had a bit of a rough start. He was fired by a newspaper editor because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” After that, Disney started a number of businesses that didn’t last too long and ended with bankruptcy and failure. He kept plugging along, however, and eventually found a recipe for success that worked. (http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/02/16/50-famously-successful-people-who-failed-at-first/)
9) Rejected media moguls: Oprah Winfrey: Most people know Oprah as one of the most iconic faces on TV as well as one of the richest and most successful women in the world. Oprah walked a hard road to get to that position, however, enduring a rough and often abusive childhood as well as numerous career setbacks, including being fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for TV.” Charlie Chaplin: It’s hard to imagine film without the iconic Charlie Chaplin, but his act was initially rejected by Hollywood studio chiefs because they felt it was a little too nonsensical to ever sell. Sidney Poitier: After his first audition, Poitier was told by the casting director, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?” Poitier vowed to show him that he could make it, going on to win an Oscar and become one of the most well-regarded actors in the business. Marilyn Monroe: While Monroe’s star burned out early, she did have a period of great success in her life. Despite a rough upbringing and being told by modeling agents that she should instead consider being a secretary, Monroe became a pin-up, model and actress that still strikes a chord with people today. Walter Disney was American film producer, director, screenwriter, voice actor, and animator. One of the most well-known motion picture producers in the world, Disney founded a production company. The corporation, now known as The Walt Disney Company, makes average revenue of US $30 billion annually. (http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/02/16/50-famously-successful-people-who-failed-at-first/ & http://EzineArticles.com/862208).)
10) Rejected writers and artists: J. K. Rowling may be rolling in a lot of Harry Potter dough today, but before she published the series of novels, she was nearly penniless, severely depressed, divorced, trying to raise a child on her own while attending school and writing a novel. Rowling went from depending on welfare to survive to being one of the richest women in the world in a span of only five years through her talent, hard work and determination. Recluse and poet Emily Dickinson is a commonly read and loved writer. Yet in her lifetime she was all but ignored, having fewer than a dozen poems published out of her almost 1,800 completed works. Ludwig van Beethoven, a German composer of classical music, is widely regarded as one of history’s supreme composers. His reputation has inspired – and in many cases intimidated – composers, musicians, and audiences who were to come after him. Before the start of his career, Beethoven’s music teacher once said of him “as a composer, he is hopeless”. And during his career, he lost his hearing yet he managed to produce great music – a deaf man composing music! Ironic, isn’t it! (http://EzineArticles.com/862208). Steven Spielberg is an American film director. He has won 3 Academy Awards and ranks among the most successful filmmakers in history. Most of all, Spielberg was recognized as the financially most successful motion picture director of all time. During his childhood, Spielberg dropped out of junior high school. He was persuaded to come back and was placed in a learning-disabled class. He only lasted a month and then dropped out of school forever. (http://EzineArticles.com/862208). Elvis Presley: As one of the best-selling artists of all time, Elvis has become a household name even years after his death. But back in 1954, Elvis was still a nobody, and Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, fired Elvis Presley after just one performance telling him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.” The Beatles: Few people can deny the lasting power of this super group, still popular with listeners around the world today. Yet when they were just starting out, a recording company told them no. The were told “we don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out,” two things the rest of the world couldn’t have disagreed with more. In 1902, the Atlantic Monthly’s poetry editor returned a batch of poems to a 28-year old poet with a bitter note: “Our magazine has no room for your vigorous verse.” The poet was Robert Frost.
11) Rejected athletes: Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. A phenomenal athlete with a unique combination of grace, speed, power, artistry, improvisational ability and an unquenchable competitive desire, Jordan single-handedly redefined the NBA superstar. Before joining the NBA, Jordan was just an ordinary person, so ordinary that he was cut from his high school basketball team because of his “lack of skill.” Luckily, Jordan didn’t let this setback stop him from playing the game, and he has stated, “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Stan Smith: This tennis player was rejected from even being a lowly ball boy for a Davis Cup tennis match because event organizers felt he was too clumsy and uncoordinated. Smith went on to prove them wrong, showcasing his not-so-clumsy skills by winning Wimbledon, the U. S. Open and eight Davis Cups. (http://www.onlinecollege.org/2010/02/16/50-famously-successful-people-who-failed-at-first/)
12) Preaching the Good News to the poor: The story is told of a Franciscan monk in Australia assigned to be the guide and “gofer” to Mother Teresa when she visited New South Wales. Thrilled and excited at the prospect of being so close to this great woman, he dreamed of how much he would learn from her and what they would talk about. But during her visit, he became frustrated. Although he was constantly near her, the friar never had the opportunity to say one word to Mother Teresa. There were always other people for her to meet. Finally, her tour was over, and she was due to fly to New Guinea. In desperation, the Franciscan friar spoke to Mother Teresa: “If I pay my own fare to New Guinea, can I sit next to you on the plane so I can talk to you and learn from you?” Mother Teresa looked at him. “You have enough money to pay airfare to New Guinea? she asked. “Yes,” he replied eagerly. “Then give that money to the poor,” she said. “You’ll learn more from that than anything I can tell you.” Mother Teresa understood that Jesus’ ministry was to the poor and she made it hers as well. She knew that they more than anyone else needed Good News.
13) “He has sent me to release the oppressed…” You will cry if you watch the film Amazing Grace. It’s the moving story of William Wilberforce and his life-long struggle in the Parliament of England to end slavery. This young man of unusual ability and noteworthy power relentlessly appealed to the consciences of sophisticated people to stop what no normal person could stand to embrace. He literally gave his life trying to set people free. What the movie does not include is the fact that slavery was finally, fully outlawed in England on July 26, 1833. William Wilberforce died July 29, 1833. Lest we think slavery to be a problem of the past, there are eighteen to twenty thousand people trafficked in the U.S. each year for forced labor or prostitution. There are twenty-seven million enslaved people worldwide, eighty percent of them women and over half, children under eighteen. A sub-plot to that movie is the life of John Newton, the preacher behind Wilberforce. A slave trader himself, Newton lives out the latter years of his life with the ghosts of twenty thousand slaves haunting him in the night. But as he proclaims in the movie, “I am a great sinner, but I found a Great Savior.” I don’t think I’ll ever sing about the “amazing grace that saved a wretch like me” the same again. Jesus Christ can do that for you and me.
14) Familiarity breeds contempt: : People come from all over the world to tour Yellowstone National Park, and yet there is a man living in Livingston, Montana, I understand, just 56 miles away, who never set foot in the park until he was in middle adulthood. There are people in New York City who have never visited the Statue of Liberty. People come from all around the world to visit Disneyland, yet there are residents of Anaheim, California who have never gone the few blocks to visit “the happiest place on earth.” There are those in the Church who know Jesus the same way that an apartment dweller in New York City may know about a neighbor living in the apartment above to whom he has never spoken in the 25 years they have shared the same roof. One can be too close to something. It may come as a surprise to you, but ministers have a difficult time worshipping. They are too close to the action. They know all of the things which can, (and sometimes do), go wrong. They are too close to the trees to experience the forest. So were Jesus’ townspeople as described in today’s Gospel.
15) “I have a dream,” Jesus at Nazareth: A young boy of 9 was sitting in his father’s workshop watching his dad work on a harness. “Someday Father,” said Louis, “I want to be a harness-maker, just like you.” “Why not start now?” said the father. He took a piece of leather and drew a design on it. “Now” he said, “take the hole-punch and hammer out this design but be careful that you don’t hit your hand.” Excited, the boy began to work, but when he hit the hole-punch, it flew out of his hand and pierced his eye! He lost his sight in that eye. Later, as fate would have it, sight in the other eye failed. Louis was now totally blind. A few years later, Louis was sitting in the family garden when a friend handed him a pinecone. As he ran his sensitive fingers over the cone, an idea came to him. He became enthusiastic and began to create an alphabet of raised dots on paper so that the blind could feel and interpret. Thus, Louis Braille in 1818 opened up a whole new world for the blind. What is it that Jesus intends to do during his three years of ministry? It is this: To open up a whole new world for you and for me. To bring us out of our poverty that has long held us down and to restore vision that you and I have long since lost.
16) Announcing freedom to the prisoners: Kazimerz Symanski of Poland was a prisoner of war during World War II. There is no record of what happened to Symanski in the prison camp, but his experiences there obviously changed him. In his later years, Symanski seemed bent on reliving his prison experience. He even turned his small apartment into a prison cell. He put bars over the windows and constructed a small cage in which he slept. He refused to allow electricity or running water in his apartment. He seemed determined to live in the most primitive and confining conditions. Symanski died in 1993 from the effects of his living conditions. (Oswald Chambers in “ � The Moral Foundations of Life” Christianity Today, Vol. 32, #13.) Some of us, too, have been living for years in prison cells of our own making. We are bound by addictions, anxiety, low self-esteem, anger, fear, guilt, misconceptions about God. Jesus proclaims in today’s Gospel that he came to liberate such prisoners.
17) A different kind of prophet: In one of his books, David Buttrick tells about a cartoon in a magazine. The cartoon shows three men sitting in a row behind a long table. A microphone has been placed in front of each of them. One man is pictured in long flowing hair and a draped white robe. Another is battered, a wreath of jagged thorns on his head. The third is swarthy, with dark curly hair and a pointed nose. The caption said, “Will the real Jesus Christ please stand?” [David Buttrick, Preaching Jesus Christ (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), p. 23.]
Everybody sees Jesus from a different angle, including the writers of the New Testament. For Matthew, Jesus is the Teacher of Righteousness. Like Moses, he climbs a mountain and teaches a new Law to his disciples. For the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is an exorcist, constantly battling the powers of evil. He is the Strong Son of God turned loose in the world. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus comes to reveal God. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made God known” (John 1:18). But for the writer of Luke’s Gospel, the word that best summarizes the person and work of Jesus is the word “prophet.” Jesus is a prophet. In the story we heard today, Jesus is a different kind of prophet. He stands squarely within the tradition of the prophets of Israel.
18) Rejected by the Amish Community: The book Crossing Over is the story of the rejection one woman faced when she fell in love with a person outside the Amish Community and ran away to marry him. Ruth Garrett had always been a little rebellious, but not even she could imagine the pain she was about to experience from being shunned by her family and community. Rejection – even the word, has a foreboding sound. Yet, it is an experience with which most, if not all of us, are familiar. Everybody experiences rejection sometime. It may come from a boss, from a peer, from a lover, from a Church, even from strangers who communicate clearly that you are not welcome in certain circles. Today’s Gospel explains how Jesus experience rejection from his hometown.
19) Enclave of resistance: In September of 1997 there was a groundbreaking service for a Catholic cathedral to be constructed in Los Angeles. The Diocese of Los Angeles commissioned the famous Spanish architect Jose Rafael Moneo to design the building. Their hope was that the cathedral would be completed by the beginning of the third millennium, the year 2000. It was to be a unique witness to the glory of God. There were models of the cathedral at the groundbreaking service, and on the basis of the models a Los Angeles Times reporter wrote a review of the cathedral. This is a part of what the reporter said: “Moneo is creating an alternate world to the everyday world that surrounds the cathedral, a testimony to grandeur of the human spirit, an antidote to a world that is increasingly spiritually empty.” Then he wrote this sentence: “The cathedral, set in the midst of the secular city, will be an enclave of resistance.” What an image . . . the Church an enclave of resistance. That word should be a part of the mission statement of every Church in the city, “an enclave of resistance against all that diminishes human life.”
20) A rebel on his death bed: There are some folks in every community who criticize anything unpopular a preacher may say (even if the preacher is quoting Jesus) and dismiss his/her words with a shrug and, “Of course, you know he/she is a Communist.” Well, at the risk of being called a “Communist,” I’d like to share with you a statement by a Communist this morning. In fact, he was one of the very first Communists. His family name was Vladimir Ilyich Ulanov, but you and I know him as Nikolai Lenin. Late in 1921 he became ill, lost the power of speech, and was obliged to let others rule in his name. Among the things which he wrote in that period were these remarkable words: “I made a mistake… Without doubt, an oppressed multitude had to be liberated. But our method only provoked further oppression and atrocious massacres. My living nightmare is to find myself lost in an ocean red with the blood of innumerable victims. It is too late now to alter the past, but what was needed to save Russia was ten Francis of Assisi’s.” [Quoted in Why Jesus Never Had Ulcers, Robert M. Holmes, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986), p. 89.] Or one Jesus Christ!! One Carpenter from Nazareth.
21) What is the mission of our Church? Rachel Carson’s book, The Sea Around Us, describes the microscopic vegetable life of the sea, which provides food for many of the ocean’s smallest creatures. She tells how these little plants drift thousands of miles wherever the currents carry them, with no power or will of their own to direct their own destiny. The plants are named plankton, a Greek word that means “wandering” or “drifting.” Plankton. describes the wandering plant life of the ocean. [Robert A. Raines, New Life in the Church (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1961).] Plankton may also be a good way to define the life of the Church today. We are wandering adrift. What is our mission as a Church? Why do we exist? From my studies of Jesus’ ministry and teachings, I believe we exist for two reasons: one is to reach individual people with the Good News of God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ; the second is to influence society to the point that the kingdoms of this earth more closely resemble the Kingdom of God.
22) A prophet rejected by his people: Some of you have heard about Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farm in Georgia. He started a peanut farm and tried to run it the same way he thought Jesus would run it. He believed in a good wage for an honest day’s work. He believed in taking care of the land and those who work it. And he believed that all people – black and white – could work together and stand together. It was the early 1950s, and his local Baptist church did not agree with his thoughts on racial equality. One time, an agricultural student from Florida State University visited Koinonia Farm for the weekend. The student was from India, and said, “I’ve never gone to a Christian worship service. I would like to go.” Clarence took him to Rehoboth Baptist Church, and it is reported that “the presence of his dark skin miraculously chilled the hot, humid southern Georgia atmosphere.”4 It didn’t matter that he was from India. He had dark skin, not a red neck -and so he did not fit in. After worship, the pastor drove out to Jordan’s farm and said, “You can’t come with somebody like that. It causes disunity in our church.” Jordan tried to explain, but the pastor wasn’t listening. Sometime later, a group of church leaders went out to the farm to plead with Clarence to keep undesirable people out of their church. They showed no patience to hear Jordan’s explanation. When they got back to the church, they wrote a letter and said, “Mr. Jordan, you are no longer welcome in our church, because you keep bringing in the wrong kind of people.” [The story is reported by Dallas Lee, The Cotton Patch Evidence: The Story of Clarence Jordan and the Koinonia Farm Experiment (New York: Harper and Row, 1971), pp. 75-76.] Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was not acceptable in his own hometown because of his option for the poor. His mission extends beyond his own country.
23) Writers faced rejection: Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was rejected by seven publishers. Richard Bach got twenty rejection slips before Jonathan Livingston Seagull was published. Dr. Seuss, one of the most popular children’s authors of all time, got more than two dozen rejection slips before The Cat in the Hat made it to print. Ruth fled the church the first time she heard Billy Graham preach. She was not convinced of his preaching ability. She was put off by his preaching style. Billy had to improve his preaching before Ruth would become Mrs. Graham. An expert once said of the great football coach, Vince Lombardi, “He possesses minimal football knowledge and lacks motivation.” Louisa May Alcott’s family thought she was hardly educable and encouraged her to find work as a seamstress or house-servant. When F. W. Woolworth first sought work at a dry goods store, his employers said he did not have the intelligence to wait on customers. Richard Hooker’s humorous war novel, MASH was rejected by 21 publishers before it became a bestseller, a movie, and long-running television series. The father of the sculptor Rodin said, “I have an idiot for a son.” Described as the worst pupil in his school, Rodin failed three times to secure admittance to a school of art. After Fred Astaire’s first screen test, the memo from the testing director said, “Can’t act! Slightly bald! Can dance a little!” Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus encountered rejection with prophetic courage. (Patricia Sanchez). L/18
From Fr. Jude Botelho:
The first reading is from the prophet Ezekiel who tries to call his people to repentance, but it is frustrating for him to prophesy because the people refuse to listen. We need to realize that every Christian is called to be a prophet, to confront and challenge by word and example, that which is not of God. At times we might be tempted to give up because we know that people will not listen, but that should not prevent us from fulfilling the mission. Ezekiel saw enough evil in the people to warrant giving up trying to help them, yet he continued his thankless mission. Jerusalem was destroyed and Ezekiel was vindicated.
Do you mean to say you are a priest? In 1960 a religious persecution broke out in the territory of Sudan in Africa. A Christian black student named Taban fled the danger and went to Uganda. While in Uganda he studied for the priesthood and was ordained. When things settled down in Sudan, young Fr. Taban returned to his homeland. But his African congregation found it hard to believe that he was really a priest. Fr. Taban says: “The people looked hard at me and asked, ‘Do you mean to say, black man, that you are a priest? We can’t believe it.'” These people had never had a black priest before. They had always had white priests who gave them clothing and medicine. Young Fr. Taban was from the Madi tribe and had nothing to give them, as he was poor like them. To make matters worse, Fr. Taban had to introduce them to the changes of the second Vatican Council. These changes bothered the people greatly. They said to one another: “This young man turns our altar around and celebrates mass in our own language. He cannot be a real priest. Only after a great deal of difficulty did the people of Palotaka finally accept Fr. Taban. Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’ In the Gospel we see Jesus coming to his own home town of Nazareth to preach to his people. Not only did the people refuse to accept Jesus, but they were offended by him, and refused to listen. They thought he was not worth listening for two reasons. Firstly, he was a worker. “This is the carpenter, surely…”. Some of them, like some of us, thought that people who worked with their hands are incapable of any level of intellectual capacity which could command their respect. The second reason for their rejection of Jesus was that they were so close to him. He was also related to many of the townsfolk having maybe extended family and cousins or other remote relatives. As good Jews the townsfolk were expecting the Messiah, but surely not one of their own, someone they grew up with, someone whose family was just like any other family in the village. The Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus was so distressed at this lack of faith that he could work no miracles there. It does not say that he chose to work no miracles there, but that because of their hardness of heart he couldn’t work any there. How does Jesus react to the locals? He says to them: “A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house.” In Mark’s version of the Gospel, Jesus is rejected by his own relations and by those of his own house, they believed him to be out of his mind and now the rejection is complete. Jesus’ experience of rejection in Nazareth renders him powerless to do any miracle among his own people and so he moves elsewhere, refusing to be enslaved by his failure to reach his own people. By coping thus with failure and rejection, Jesus points beyond himself in the power of the Father. Strength is weakness and weakness is strength Two paupers wandered from town to town, begging for alms. One was a giant who had never been sick in his life; the other was a cripple who had never known anything but sickness. The giant used to laugh at the cripple. At last the two paupers reached the capital city. They arrived just at the time when a great misfortune had taken place. Two of the kings’ most trusted servants had died suddenly. One was his personal bodyguard, the strongest man in the land; the other was his personal physician, the most skillful in the entire realm. So the king sent his courtiers into his kingdom to gather all the strong men and doctors who wished to apply for the vacant posts. The king finally chose one strong man and one doctor from among all the applicants. He then asked them to furnish proof of their fitness for the posts. “Your majesty”, said the strongman, “Bring me the strongest and biggest man in the city and I will kill him with one blow of my fist.” The doctor said “Your majesty, bring me the most helpless cripple you can find and I will make him well in a week.” The king sent his courtiers to bring the strongest man and the weakest cripple they could find. They soon came upon the two paupers and brought them before the king. With one blow of his fist the strong man killed the giant. Then the doctor examined the cripple and after a week’s treatment he made him well. – The strength of the strong often proves to be their downfall, while the weakness of the weak often saves them. Flor McCarthy, in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’ The medium is the message? A traveling circus was staying on the outskirts of a village. One evening shortly before show time, a fire broke out in one of the tents. The manager sent the clown, who was already dressed up for his act, into the nearby village for help. There was danger that the fire would spread across the fields of dry stubble and burn the village itself. The clown hurried into the village. He asked the people to come out as quickly as possible to help quench the fire. But the people didn’t take him seriously. They thought it was a brilliant piece of advertising on the part of the management. He tried his best to make them understand that there really was a fire. But the harder he tried the more they laughed at him. Finally the fire reached the village and burned it to the ground. -The main reason why the villagers didn’t listen to the man was that they looked upon him as a clown. This made it virtually impossible for them to examine the truth of what he was saying to them. Something similar happened to Jesus when he returned to his native village of Nazareth. His message never had a chance because they refused to listen to the messenger. Flor McCarthy, in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’ God next door! God calls us too, not by extraordinary people, but by very ordinary beings in whom we have to recognize the unpredictable presence of the one sent by God. The guest, the neighbour, the sick person, the stranger, the one at my side, are so many channels of grace, if we guard in our hearts this dynamism of expectancy which calls for and brings about miracles. Yes God has need of men in order to manifest himself. Glenstal Missal God wishes to reach out to us I remember being profoundly moved by the unfolding of events in Romania some years ago, at the fall of a tyrannical dictatorship. When the country was opened up, the horror stories began to emerge about the living conditions in orphanages, psychiatric hospitals, etc. Many young people went out from this country to help transform the living conditions of these unfortunate people. I knew one such girl. The first time she entered an orphanage, the two things that struck her most were the stench and the silence. When babies cry and are not attended to, they stop crying. The babies were living in conditions that would be unacceptable in the animal kingdom. Matters of toilet were totally neglected, and the children had no experience whatever of being held, of being nursed. At the approach of an adult the babies were seen to tremble, like frightened rabbits. Mary’s job was to sit for hours on end beside one such baby, until the baby got used to her presence. She then, over a long period, worked at drawing closer to the baby, and eventually touching it, without frightening it. It often took several weeks before Mary’s big day came. When she approached the baby, and it held up its arms to be lifted, she felt that was one the greatest moments in her life. She shed many a tear while she worked with those babies. Jesus really wants to touch us, he wants to embrace us, he wants to be free from all the evil, sin, and the human degradation. Jack McArdle in ‘And that’s the Gospel truth!’ Be encouraged! A group of frogs were travelling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit. When they saw how deep the pit was, they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead. The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up out of the pit with all of their might. The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead. Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and gave up. He gave up and died. The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out. When he got out, the other frogs said, “Did you not hear us?” The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time. This story teaches two lessons: Firstly, there is power of life and death in the tongue. An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day. Secondly, a destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them. We need to be careful of what we say. Let us speak life-giving words to those who cross our path. Anonymous
In spite of rejections, may we be prophets of hope in the world today!
Picture yourself starting a brand new project. You might want to call it mission. In a parish where most of the communicants were government workers, civilian and military, I was always hearing the word, mission. I had understood mission in a religious context. I learned that mission could have a broader meaning. Life is mission. Business is mission. Career is mission. Mission is a good word. It suggests vision that is supported by good planning. Define your mission clearly. State its purpose briefly. Write the rules for implementing it. That will be your business plan. That makes you mission ready.
The Gospel is about mission. St. Mark has a way of zeroing in on the basics. He’s very brief and to the point. Let’s get the picture. Jesus sets up a “pilot test” project. He wants to test how well his brand new on-the-job trainees can take instructions and make them work. In this Gospel we see him giving them a lesson on some very basic matters. I will use three key words to highlight his work plan: Excess, Time and Respond. In the simplest terms, the basics are: avoid Excesses, use Time wisely, and Respond, don’t react, to each new challenge.
I suggest that these basics will work for you too, any time and any place…
There are two types of travelers. There are those that travel light; and, there are those who pack for self-preservation. Do you take a small bag with the basic essentials and figure you’ll pick stuff up as you go?
Or do you cram everything you can into every corner of an extra-large expandable bag, making sure that whatever comes your way on your trip, you are prepared?
Parents traveling with small children embody both extremes. They bring enough “kid gear,” emergency medicines, food and drink boxes, stuffed animals, and beloved story-books to keep the children satisfied for weeks. But they’re lucky if they get a toothbrush and a change of socks for themselves.
It is the Boy Scouts’ motto of “Be Prepared” vs. the new airline mantra of “you pay for every pound.” Once you are beyond the “traveling with small children” phase of your life, it is tempting to look at all the “stuff” parents bring along as just so much junk. But, ironically, it is those protective parents who might best embody the supplications of Jesus and the spartan traveling supplies of Jesus’ disciples. No, the twelve apostles did not bring “Dora, the Explorer” downloads. No, there were no fruit snacks and water bottles. But . . . Yes, like parents, they did set out to travel without focusing on their own needs and provisions.
In today’s text we learn how the disciples, in accordance with Jesus’ own directives, took basically nothing as a “back-up” for themselves…
Pridefulness – Not Needing God
Atlas was condemned to carry the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. That was as harsh a punishment as the ancient Greek mind could conjure up. Today, it seems, we have volunteered to play the role of Atlas. We have not offended God, we have dismissed him, told him we were grown up enough not to need his help any more, and offered to carry the weight of the entire world on our shoulders. The question is, when it gets too heavy for us, when there are questions too hard for human knowledge to answer and problems that take more time to solve than any of us have, will we be too proud to admit that we have made a mistake in wanting to carry this world alone?
Rabbi Harold Kushner
Sometimes the best thing we can do is to move on to another field. Paul Harvey tells the story of Joe, who was born into a family of Sicilian immigrants, a family who had a 300-year history as fishermen. Joe’s dad was a fisherman. His brothers were fishermen. But Joe was made sick by the smell of raw fish and the motion of a rocking boat. In a family where the only acceptable way to earn a living was by fishing, Joe was a failure. His dad used to refer to his son as “good for nothing.” Joe believed his dad. He believed that his attempts at other types of work were an admission of failure, but he just couldn’t stand the smell of the fishing business. One thing that Joe could do was to play baseball. Giving up a field where he could not succeed, Joe DiMaggio moved to another field and became one of the great successes of baseball.
David G. Rogne, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost
Call to Repentance and Change
Erwin M. Soukup has compiled what he terms “The Seven Steps to Stagnation”:
1. We’ve never done it that way before.
2. We’re not ready for that.
3. We are doing all right without trying that.
4. We tried it once before.
5. We don’t have money for that.
6. That’s not our job.
7. Something like that can’t work.
Soukup admits that “there’s probably an eighth step, but we’ve never looked it up before.”
Martin E. Marty, “Context,” April 15, 1985, p. 5.
Ignoring the Play
When I was in elementary school, I remember when all the kids in the neighborhood got together and put on a show. We rigged up a curtain of sorts by hanging an old bedspread in a screened porch, and arranged folding chairs for the audience. Then we practiced a small play, and added in a few musical solos, for which I played the piano. (Because we couldn’t move the piano closer to the play, I had to play it very loud, and even then it was barely audible.) As I remember it, it was a prodigious feat for little kids like us.
We invited all our mothers to come to our performance. (That was back in the days when housewives were not an endangered species and most mothers were home all day.) Although we did not charge admission, we went through the motions of collecting tickets and ushering our guests to their seats. Our audience was charmed by how cute that was. Then we put on our play.
We put a lot of work into our play. We had to invent everything from scratch and improvise sets and costumes from things our mothers reluctantly loaned us, and yet they didn’t pay attention! They sat there and gossiped with each other, commenting on whether this kid was a natural singer or that kid was terminally shy. At the end, they retained nothing of the plot or the story of our play; they just told us how cute we were. Cute! The word stung! We wanted them to take us seriously, as if we were adults putting on a play. But they were so well acquainted with us that all they saw were cute little kids, and no play at all.
Well, that is pretty much what happened to Jesus in today’s reading.
Ken Collins, No Honor in His Own Country
The Object of Envy Is Trapped In his story “Abel Sanchez,” writer Miguel de Unamuno nicely highlights the nature of envy and why it that the envied person is often trapped. In this retelling of the Cain and Abel story from Genesis 4, the Cain character is played by a skilled surgeon who has for years secretly envied his friend, Abel Sanchez, a skilled artist. At one point in the story, the doctor is scrutinizing one of Abel’s paintings. This particular painting is a depiction of the Cain and Abel story itself from the Bible. At first, the doctor is convinced that the face of Cain in the painting is modeled on his own face. And he becomes furious! How dare Abel Sanchez use HIM as a model for envy? The gall! The nerve! The implied accusation! But then, upon closer inspection, the doctor decides it’s not his face after all. Does this defuse his anger, however? By no means! Instead the surgeon becomes irate that Abel Sanchez did NOT deign to use him in one of his famous paintings! How dare Abel NOT use his face!
De Unamuno’s point is clear: when you are the object of envy, you cannot do a blessed thing to make the situation any better. Try to be extra kind to the one who envies you, and this kindness will get written off as condescension and charity. Try to rise above things by ignoring the one torn up with envy and you will be written off as arrogant and rude, thereby merely confirming the envier’s low opinion of you. Neither approach nor avoidance can help the envied one.
It’s difficult to know how much of a role envy plays in Mark 6 but surely the sneering attitude of Jesus’ fellow townsfolk revealed at least a smidgen of envy-driven sentiments. Maybe this had something to do with his inability/unwillingness to do miracles there. He was doomed no matter what he did. Do more miracles, and the people write him off as a showboat (and/or as someone drawing off power from dubious sources). If he refused to do miracles, maybe a few would say, “What now?! We’re not good enough for you, not WORTHY of your wonder-working power!?”
Perhaps the only thing left to do was leave town and go to other villages, from which Jesus sent forth his disciples-cum-apostles to do wonderful work in places where it could be unalloyedly appreciated.
Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
A Reputation Is Hard to Shake
Do you remember the stupid stuff you did when you were a kid? I’m not talking about wetting the bed or spilling your milk; I mean the things that you did in public, the things that were known in the community and, perhaps, even gave you a reputation. Maybe you were arrested for some prank, or you were kicked off the football team for drinking, or maybe, on a dare, you streaked the high school lunchroom. Whatever.
The point is, a reputation is a hard thing to shake. Even as a fully grown adult, when you go back home, the people still whisper: “There’s Bill Smith, he got busted for ‘dining and dashing’ back in ’72.” No wonder so many people move away from their hometown when they grow up! It’s less humbling that way.
In high school, I was known as “The Class Clown.” Now there’s a shock! I was forever cutting up in class, telling jokes, making smart comments. When I arrived in biology class on the first day, the teacher took role, and when she came to my name, she said “Steve, I’ve heard about you, and you’ve got one chance. If you smart off in my class, you’re out of here.” Well, I lasted about a week. When Mrs. McMartin asked if someone could define the word “dilute” I said that it was a city on the shore of Lake Superior. Hello, study hall!
But as my life began to change, some people wouldn’t let me change. I came to faith in Christ and got serious about ministry, but people still saw me as a clown. I decided to go to seminary and they whispered “That’s Steve Molin, he was tossed off the college hockey team in ’68.” When I got ordained, some supposed that I would show up as Guido Sarducci of the Saturday Night Live skit. Is it any wonder then that my first ministry job was in Rochester, some 70 miles from home? Or that my next call was to Sioux Falls, 250 miles from here. Or that next, I traveled 1600 miles away to serve in Salem, Oregon. In Salem, they loved me. In Sioux Falls, they took me seriously. But seven years ago, I came back home, and I can’t tell you how many times I have run into people from my high school who have said “Really? Steve Molin? A Lutheran pastor?” As I said, it’s hard to shake a reputation.
Steven Molin, An Expert Is Someone 300 Miles Away From Home!
Glued to Our Faults
James S. Hewett once gave an apt example of people not getting the respect they deserve. Especially young people. He tells about his son, who was using one of those super-adhesive glues on a model airplane he was building. “In less than three minutes,” says James Hewett, “his right index finger was bonded to a shiny blue wing of his DC-10. He tried to free it. He tugged it, pulled it, waved it frantically, but he couldn’t budge his finger free.” Soon, they located a solvent that did the job and ended their moment of crisis. Then James Hewitt writes this: “Last night I remembered that scene when I visited a new family in our neighborhood. The father of the family introduced his children: ‘This is Pete. He’s the clumsy one of the lot.’ ‘That’s Kathy coming in with mud on her shoes. She’s the sloppy one.’ ‘As always, Mike is last. He’ll be late for his own funeral, I promise you.'”
James Hewett goes on to say, “The dad did a thorough job of gluing his children to their faults and mistakes. People do it to us all the time. They remind us of our failures, our errors, our sins, and they won’t let us live them down. Like my son trying frantically to free his finger from the plane, there are people who try, sometimes desperately, to free themselves from their past. They would love a chance to begin again. When we don’t let people forget their past, when we don’t forgive, we glue them to their mistakes and refuse to see them as more than something they have done. However, when we forgive, we gently pry the doer of the hurtful deed from the deed itself, and we say that the past is just that–the past–over and done with . . .”
If we are going to be effective in reaching people for Christ we are going to have to start showing people that we really care. Evangelism and missions must be relational in nature. There is no record of Jesus walking up to someone out of the clear blue sky and saying: I am the Messiah and then him beginning to show his care for them. No, he showed his care for them first and then he revealed himself to them.
A story is told about a man who was on a luxury liner and suddenly he falls overboard. He can’t swim and in desperation he begins calling for help. Now it just so happens that there several would be rescuers on deck who witnessed the incident. The first man was a MORALIST. When he saw the man fall overboard he immediately reached into his briefcase and pulled out a book on how to swim. He now tossed it to him and he yelled: Now brother, you read that and just follow the instructions and you will be all right. The man next to him happened to be a IDEALIST. When he saw the man fall
overboard he immediately jumped into the water and began swimming all around
the drowning man saying: Now just watch me swim. Do as I do and you will be
alright. The person next to him happened to be a member of the INSTITUTIONAL
CHURCH. He looked upon the drowning man’s plight with deep concern. He yelled out: Now, just hold on friend. Help is on the way. We are going to
establish a committee and dialogue your problem. And then, if we have come
up with the proper financing, we will resolve your dilemma.
The next man on deck happened to be a representative of the school of
POSITIVE THINKING. He yelled out to the drowning man: “Friend, this situation is not nearly as bad as you think. Think dry!” The next man on
board happened to be a REVIVALIST. By this time the drowning man was going
down for the third time and desperately began waving his arm. Seeing that,
the revivalist yelled out: Yes brother, I see that hand, is there another?
Is there another? And finally, the last man on deck, was a REALIST. He
immediately plunged into the water, at the risk of his own life, and pulled
the victim to safety.
My friends, the harvest is plentiful, but the WORKERS are few. We need realist in the church willing plunge into the water and go to work.