July 8, 2018 Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Jim Miller

Reading 1 EZ 2:2-5

Responsorial Psalm PS 123:1-2, 2, 3-4

  1. (2cd) Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
    Reading 2 2 COR 12:7-10

 Alleluia CF. LK 4:18

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 6:1-6

Homily—July 7 & 8, 2018

I find the readings this weekend to have a lot to reflect upon.   In the second reading St. Paul speaks about having a thorn in the flesh to keep him from becoming too elated!  It reminds me of trying to keep myself on a steady plane, not getting too high or too low.

In talking about his weakness, whatever it was, Paul is teaching us about prayer and ministry.   I like to imagine that Paul had some of the same weaknesses that you and I have. He prayed three times that he might be rid of whatever he had that was bothering him which is another way of saying that he prayed a lot about getting rid of it.  The Lord answered him by saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul did not get what he wanted and we often don’t either.

Paul is driving home the point that prayer opens us to God’s will.  That leads us to conclude that genuine prayer is a path that always leads us beyond ourselves.  Whatever Paul’s problem might have been, his first interpretation of it was that it had been effective in keeping him from thinking too much of himself; he might be the recipient of divine visions, but he was far from being in control.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns home and attends the synagogue of his childhood.  In those days, synagogue officials could invite any Jewish man to speak. We can assume, then, that at least one person thought Jesus had something of value to say that day as Mark tells us that Jesus “began to teach”  And when they heard him, the people were, indeed, astonished. They recognized Jesus’ wisdom: What kind of wisdom has been given to him?” They recognized Jesus’ power: What mighty deeds have been wrought by his hands?”  But then something changes, and the tone of their questions moves from truly seeking to understand, to rhetorical questions that seem destined to lead to a foregone conclusion. “Wait a minute,” I can almost hear them thinking, we knew him from the time he was a little boy, but Jesus had grown up and become his own person.  Those from his hometown had pegged him, put him in a box. He was the “carpenter,” the son of Mary. They knew him and knew his family. Who was he to teach them?

What happened, I wonder, in the minds of Jesus’ family, friends and neighbors that took them from listening to what Jesus had to say with an open mind and an open heart, to close-mindedly judging him by what they thought they knew about him?  Perhaps more importantly, what happens in us that causes our minds and hearts to shut down? What keeps us from listening with an open mind and an open heart to the wisdom another might have to share? God was in their midst. And they simply could not see.  What, I wonder, keeps us from seeing the risen Christ? What blind spots keep us, like they kept the family and friends of Jesus, from recognizing the Word of God in our midst?

Today most of us are not in danger of being too familiar with Jesus the way those from his hometown were.  We are not dismissive of the carpenter who was the son of Mary. But we can be effectively blind to the presence of Jesus in our midst in the modern world.  We can be dismissive of those we confine to the margins of society. Who is that? A homeless person? A beggar? An immigrant? Or an undocumented person? What does that person know that we don’t already know?  What wisdom could that person have that we don’t already possess?

Their faith was crippled by their limited expectations.  Jesus could work no mighty deeds among them. The Lord’s power is not magical but relational.  He might speak a liberating word, but we need to believe and act on it before we experience our freedom.  Christ will not be able to perform any mighty deed in our lives until we place our faith in him and see in our struggles a call to greater cooperation with grace.

The scandal of the Incarnation is that God enters our history, speaks our language and can be constrained by our lack of faith.  The most frightening and exciting truth about it is that God wants to work miracles in and through our own weakness.

Can you think of times when weaknesses, challenges, even failures, have led to deeper faith in God?

Have you had experience, like Jesus, of being better received or understood by strangers than by family members or close friends?

Are you more concerned with God’s word and will than with your own?

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