July 4-5, 2015 Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B
"So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, ... He was amazed at their lack of faith."
This scripture passage has always fascinated me. It doesn't say Jesus decided not to perform any mighty deed, or Jesus refrained from performing any might deed, but that Jesus and this is the literal translation of the Greek, was unable to perform any mighty deed. This reminds me again and again that salvation is not something that God does to us, or that God does for us. By God's choice it is something the God does with us. When the preaching assignments came out and I saw I was preaching this weekend, I half-jokingly said to myself, well I probably should focus on something other than the new evangelization since that had been my focus the last few times. But then I read these readings and found out that the Spirit had other plans. All three of these readings speak directly to what we are being asked to do by Pope Francis, Cardinal Sean and our collaborative mission.
Before I get to that point though, I do want to touch on the question that many people have reading this Gospel and that is, does this passage mean Jesus had blood brothers and sisters by Mary or Joseph? The short answer is no, it does not. If you are interested in the details of why I have put two links at the bottom of the text of this homily on our website. The short answer is that in the language Jesus spoke there was no word for cousin so the Aramaic word that would translate as brother in Greek meant any close male relative of the same generation.
Back to the Gospel story. In chapter 5 which we heard from last week, we hear stories of several of those mighty deeds in the curing of the Gerasene demoniac, the curing of Jarius' daughter, and the women who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. These took place right outside of Nazareth and the towns people that Jesus grew up with had heard about this. But they still could not believe that this man who had grown up in their town could possibly be the messiah. Now many of the commentators that I read about this passage, characterize what is happening as Jesus was too familiar with them. But I would suggest that it was more that they thought they knew Jesus but in fact, they were not familiar enough with him. If they had just opened their eyes and ears and got to know Jesus better, they would have come to realize he was who he claimed to be.
So what does this have to do with us and evangelization? Pretty much everything! First, listen to the first reading and the gospel together. Neither God's instructions to Ezekiel nor Jesus' experience in Nazareth is focused on "converting" people. The point is to proclaim the word of God, to make God present whether people respond favorably or not. Our mission to be evangelizers is the same. We are not to get ourselves all worked up about being effective evangelizers by measuring how many people we bring back to church or convert to Catholicism. We are to focus on whether we are perfecting our ability to be the body of Christ, the presence of God's love and mercy. God tells Ezekiel that despite the fact that the Israelites will not listen to him, they must know that the word of God has been proclaimed in their midst. The rest of verse 6 of the Gospel passage, which for some reason the editors of the lectionary did not include, says that, in the face of his own townspeople rejection, Jesus went around to the villages in the vicinity, teaching. He didn't stop and try to change their minds or convince them; he continued his mission of en-fleshing God's love to the surrounding towns. And that is what we are called to do.
Paul's story of his weakness is also very important for us to remember. Our job as evangelizers is not to overpower those who insult or attack the church. It is not our skills as apologists or ability to point out the inconsistencies or false assumptions of those who reject God or the wisdom of the teachings of the Church that make us effective disciples.The power of Christ which is to dwell in us, is most evident when we are loving, and merciful, and forgiving.
And finally, this gospel story is a cautionary tale for us. I would suggest that we Catholics exhibit that same surface familiarity with Christ that prevents us from knowing Christ more deeply. Just one example of this is how we approach Holy Communion. Think of how you would prepare for and feel about a personal meeting with (take your pick), President Obama, or Taylor Swift, or Warren Buffet, or Pope Francis. Now compare that to how you prepare for and feel about not only meeting but actually becoming one with the second person of the Trinity, Christ through whom all things were made, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, ... all things were created through him and for him, who is before all things, and in whom all things hold together. Our deepening realization of what we are doing in Communion is what will form us more fully into the body of Christ so that when we are sent forth at the end of Mass today, wherever we go this week, they shall know that a prophet has been among them.
(short) Did Jesus have brothers and sisters: http://www.catholic.com/blog/matt-fradd/jesus-had-brothers
(longer more technical) http://www3.canisius.edu/~moleski/classq/brothers.pdf
As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.
Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you.
But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD! And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—they shall know that a prophet has been among them.
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 Joses 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 went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching. He summoned the Twelve* and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.