14th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – July 7, 2024

 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – July 7, 2024

Ezekiel 2:2-5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6

 

Theme: What to Do When We Experience Rejection From Our Own People

Today’s Scripture readings reveal that Jesus,  Ezekiel, and Paul faced rejection from their own people. This shared experience is a powerful reminder that we, too, may encounter rejection in our lives. Our Holy Mother Church encourages us to reflect on two key aspects. First, how do we treat our fellow humans (priests, religious brothers and sisters, deacons, and lay ministers) who carry out the mission of Jesus in our midst? Second, how can our attitude and faith be when we experience the same rejection from our own people? It's important to remember that we are not alone in these experiences.

The context of our passage is the contrast between the faith Jesus and his disciples found in the pagan territory, which led to numerous miracles (see 5:1-43), and the lack of faith they encountered here among Jesus’ own people, which limited the scope of Jesus’ healing and teaching. This passage follows the story of the resuscitation of Jairus's daughter and the healing of the woman with a hemorrhage, and it precedes the story of Jesus sending his twelve apostles on a mission.  

Our Gospel is a narrative account. V. 1 introduces the story, and v. 6 concludes it. The body of the text (vv. 2-5) has four movements: (1) The narrator’s comments about Jesus teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath, (2)  People’s reactions of rejection, (3) Jesus’s response to them, and (5) the narrator’s comments.

After teaching his disciples through words (4:1-34) and deeds (4:35-5:43), Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth, where he taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Mark does not provide the content of Jesus’ teaching. Instead, he focuses on the reactions of the people. Jesus’ mighty deeds and wisdom led the Nazareans to ask derogatory questions about Jesus’ origin, parents, brothers, and sisters. It is important to understand the cultural context here. In Semitic usage, the words “brother” and “sister” are also used for cousins, nephews, nieces, and half-siblings, not just for children of the same parents. For instance, in Mk 6:17, it is said that Philip was the “brother” of Herod Antipas, even though they were half-brothers. This understanding helps us appreciate the depth of the narrative and the Church's belief in the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Mother Mary, who did not have children before or after Jesus.

The Nazarean people expected nothing extraordinary from Jesus since they knew his origin and how ordinary he and his family were. So, they rejected him and took offense at him. Note that Mark had already reported that people had judged Jesus’ teaching and actions as threats to the social order and inappropriate to his ordinary status (Mk 3:6). Even Jesus’ relatives alleged that Jesus was mentally unstable (Mk 3:21). This reasoning dissonance occurs again here in our passage. In his response, Jesus identifies himself as a prophet like the Old Testament prophets who were rejected by their own people (the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading is one example.) Then, the narrator comments that Jesus “ was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.” (V. 5). “Not being able” does not mean that Jesus lost the power to perform miracles. Instead, it means people’s lack of faith limited the possibility for Jesus to perform more mighty deeds. Note that in Mark’s Gospel, faith precedes the miracles. Mark ends our story with a note showing how Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.

Through this Gospel passage, our Holy Mother Church first invites us to meditate on how we should treat Jesus’ disciples of our time (priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters, and lay ministers.) In our Gospel, Jesus is shown as being unable to accomplish much in his hometown because his own people did not accept him. We often miss God’s blessings when we misjudge Jesus’ servants of our time, especially those we know how ordinary they and their families are. Our fellow humans who have dedicated their lives to serving Jesus in our midst, despite their human weaknesses, deserve our support, love, and encouragement. 

The second point our Holy Mother Church invites us to reflect on today is our attitude when we, as Baptized Christians, experience the same rejection as Jesus. We may not find support, love, and consideration among the people we serve or where we live our Christian faith. To discredit Jesus, people described his family; they reminded him of his origin, his job (a carpenter), and the status of his parents and relatives to put him down. As Christians, we are the “other Christ” of our time. Thus, we may face the same treatment as Jesus did. For instance, to discourage us and force us to give up our good works, people may remind us that we are single mothers or single fathers; they may remind us of the negative things we did in the past; they may remind us of the status of our families, how ordinary they are. Of course, this kind of treatment hurts, especially if it comes from those who are supposed to love and support us more than others. When you and I experience this, our Scripture readings exhort us not to give up our faith and ministry. Let us draw strength from the resilience of Jesus, Ezekiel, and Paul, who overcame these trials.

The experiences of Ezekiel and Paul we heard in our first and second readings are similar to those of Jesus. God sent Ezekiel as a prophet to his compatriots, a people “hard of face and obstinate of heart.” His mission was to preach the Word of God “whether they heed or resist.” This is not an easy task. Saint Paul also encountered the same problems. The context of our second reading is that “false preachers” have confused the congregation of Corinth. They preached to the Corinthians a different message than the one Paul first preached. Consequently, many people rejected Paul and his teaching as they started believing the false preachers. Then, in our second reading passage, Saint Paul dealt with the Corinthian believers who did not trust him anymore. He reminded them of the many sufferings he endured to preach Christ's message. Paul considers his persecution as the work of the angel of Satan, whose goal is to beat him and keep him from being too elated (2 Cor 12:7). The same Satan continues his work of discouraging Christians until today. His goal is to stop us from living out our Christian faith. Saint Paul was about to give up. He prayed to God three times that this suffering might leave him. But here is God's answer: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:8-9). Saint Paul then was convinced and decided not to give up, as he said himself: “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints for the sake of Christ.” (v. 10). God’s grace is sufficient for each one of us today. So, let us continue serving and ministering to our brothers and sisters regardless of how we are treated.

May the liturgy of this Mass enable us to love and support Jesus’ ministers in our midst and not give up our faith and good works when we face rejection. May our prayers be a source of comfort and strength, reminding us that we are not alone in our struggles. Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

 

 

 

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – June 30, 2024

 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – June 30, 2024

Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43

 

Theme: How We Should Regard Jesus When Facing Our Own Suffering: Jesus Has Divine Power of Life Over Death

Since last Sunday, the Gospel readings have moved from Jesus’ teaching in words (a series of parables) into deeds (a series of miracles). Last Sunday, we heard the miracle of the Calming of a Storm at Sea, the first of the four miracles in this series. Through that miracle, Mark demonstrated Jesus’ power over the forces of nature. Linking that Gospel to the story of Job, which we heard in the first reading of the same Mass, we saw that Jesus shares this power over the forces of nature with God. The lectionary skipped the second miracle (the Healing of the Gerasene Demoniac [5:1-20].) So, today, we read the last two joined miracles in the Gospel. Jesus healed a woman with a hemorrhage and resuscitated Jairus’s daughter. Both miracles happened with physical contact. The woman touched Jesus' clothes and felt healed. Jesus took the girl by the hand and restored her life. The sacred writer of our first reading had in mind a spiritual death when he said, “By the envy of the devil, death entered the world.” This spiritual death occurs when our personal relationship with God is broken through sins. Hence, the miracle that restores our spiritual lives is called “repentance.” In our second reading, Saint Paul exhorts the Corinthian believers to be charitable to one another, both materially and spiritually. Our spiritual and physical lives will be restored when we touch Jesus through our generosity to our fellow humans and when we let Jesus touch us through the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist. Jesus has the divine power of life over death.

The Gospel passage today concludes the section of four miracle stories (4:35 – 5:43). It is preceded by the miracle story of the healing of the Gerasene Demoniac (5:1-20) and followed by the story about Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth (6:1-6), which opens a new section. As part of the series of four miracles, Mark intends to teach his audience how to regard Jesus when facing their own suffering. With the miracle story of the calming of a storm at Sea we heard last Sunday, Mark taught them to regard Jesus as the one who has the divine power over the forces of nature. Through the two miracles we heard today, Mark called his audience to regard Jesus as the one who has the divine power of life over death.

Our Gospel text is a miracle narrative with a unique structure. Mark presents two miracle stories in intercalation, a literary technique where a story is inserted within another story. The narrator begins with the first part of the story of the healing of Jairus’s daughter. Then, he intercalates it with the story of the healing of the woman with a Hemorrhage. Finally, he concludes the pericope with the last part of the healing of Jairus’s daughter. This narrative structure helps us better understand the sequence of events and the significance of each miracle.

In 4:35, Jesus and his disciples crossed the Galilee sea to the region of Decapolis in the Gerasenes, a Gentile territory. The first miracle story (the calming of a storm at Sea ) happened while sailing, and the second miracle (the healing of the Gerasene demoniac) took place in this pagan territory. In our text, the narrator tells us that Jesus crossed back to the other side and returned to Jewish territory in Galilee. A very large crowd gathered around him. Jairus, one of the Synagogue officials, came to him, fell at his feet, and interceded for the hilling of his daughter, who was at the point of death. He prayed to Jesus to lay his hands on her so that she would get well and live. Jesus heard his prayer. He went to Jairus’ house, and a large crowd followed him.

On their way to Jairus’ home, Mark interposes a different story: the healing of a woman who had been afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. The narrator tells us that this woman had suffered greatly as she spent all her money on doctors without getting healed. The woman had information about Jesus. And now, seeing Jesus passing by, despite the large crowd and her health condition, she managed to touch Jesus’ clothes since she believed that she would get healed by doing so. Effectively, her flow of blood dried up. She felt she was healed, and Jesus felt the power had gone out from him. Jesus asked the crowd to find out who touched his clothes, but his disciples ridiculed him. The woman showed up, fell down before Jesus, and confessed that it was she who touched Jesus’ clothing. Jesus praised her faith, sent her away, and declared her permanently healed.

The last part of our Gospel text resumes the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter. People from Jairus’ house reported to the Synagogue official Jairus the death of his daughter and asked him not to bother Jesus anymore since her daughter died already. However, Jesus called Jairus not to be afraid but to keep his faith. Upon entering Jairus’ house, accompanied by Peter, James, and John, Jesus invited the weeping and wailing people there to stop because the child was not dead but sleeping. But the people ridiculed him in the same manner the disciples had ridiculed him in the scene of the woman with a hemorrhage. Jesus resuscitated the child using physical touch and words: “He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” (v. 41).       

Let us analyze these two miracles simultaneously to learn what Mark and our Holy Mother Church try to teach us today. On the one hand, the official approached Jesus and prayed to him for the healing of his daughter. On the other hand, the woman with a hemorrhage approached Jesus for her own healing. Jairus fell at Jesus’s feet (v. 22), and the woman too fell down before Jesus (v. 33). The reason why Jairus fell down before Jesus was to make his request, but the reason the woman was to tell Jesus about her healing. This part teaches us to adopt the two prayers from the woman and Jairus. In our prayer to God, we intercede for ourselves and others; we kneel before Jesus. Knelling is the position of adoration, humility, and praise. We kneel before Jesus at the beginning of the prayer to request and at the end to adore our Lord, praise him, and express our gratitude for all he does for us.  

For the healing to occur, on the one hand, the woman went to meet Jesus where he was, and on the other hand, Jairus invited Jesus to go to his house. Together, they walked to Jairus’ home, where Jesus did not only meet Jairus’ daughter but also other people who were weeping and mourning there. These two movements, going to Jesus and taking Jesus home, are what we do in the liturgy of the Mass. We come to Church to meet Jesus, and at the end of the Mass, we take him to our homes to bless those who did not have a chance to attend Mass. In the past, many Christians had a custom to go to the prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, and houses of relatives and friends right after Sunday Masses to visit them and bless them with Jesus they had encountered at Mass. This is a good custom that we should continue doing.

 Jairus pleaded with Jesus to lay his hands on his daughter, and once in his house, Jesus took the child by the hand (physical touch); the woman managed to touch Jesus' clothes (also physical touch). Jesus continues to touch our souls through the Scriptures and the Holy Communion. Likewise, we touch him when we read the Bible and receive his Body and Blood. We also touch Jesus when we visit and help our brothers and sisters in need. The Eucharistic celebration is the mystical encounter with our Lord during which different miracles occur when he touches us and we touch him.

 When he felt the power had gone out of him, Jesus asked a question: “Who has touched my clothes?” because of his question, his disciples ridiculed him (vv. 30-31). The same, before he was about to use his power to raise the girl, he asked the people in Jairus's house: “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” Because of his question, these people too ridiculed him (vv. 39-40). God is Spirit. In prayer, we transcend our human nature and use our spiritual state to dialogue with our Lord. When we do not allow our souls to enter this spiritual conversation with God, what our Lord tells us will not make sense. The disciples and people in Jairus’ house were not at a spiritual level, but human instead, so they found Jesus’ words and questions ridiculing. In our prayers, we must allow our souls to enter the mystical conversation with the Lord.

The news of Jairus’s daughter's death could discourage Jairus from pursuing his journey of faith. Likewise, the large crowd and the woman's health condition could prevent this woman from fulfilling her goal of touching Jesus’ clothing. Jairus listened and obeyed Jesus’ Word: “ Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Regarding the woman's faith, Mark tells us that “She had heard about Jesus…” (v. 27). Also, she listened to Jesus who spoke in her heart, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” (V. 28). Suffering, pains, illnesses, and losses of our loved ones are part of our human lives. This part of the Gospel teaches us not to let our trials obstruct our faith journey. Instead, we must always listen to Jesus, who speaks to us in the Bible and our hearts.  

The narration features two females: an afflicted woman with a hemorrhage for twelve years and a twelve-year-old girl. The latter died clinically, and the first died religiously and socially, as she was considered unclean because of her blood flow. Jesus brought both of them back to life. Mark teaches us that Jesus has the divine power of life over death. When we are in a good relationship with Jesus, even if we die, we will have eternal life in heaven. When sins cause spiritual death by separating us from God, Jesus brings us to life by forgiving our sins through the sacrament of confession. This is what our first reading teaches us.

Our first reading is from the Book of Wisdom, written by an anonymous author to encourage diaspora Jews to stand firm in their Jewish tradition and faith. Our passage comes from the Book's first part, which focuses on righteousness and immortality. The narrator begins our passage by affirming that God did not make death, and he does not rejoice in the destruction of the living (1:13). He tells his fellow diaspora Jews, including all of us, that righteousness is undying (1:15). He means immortality of the soul is God’s gift to the righteous. God created us in the image of his nature, meaning imperishable (2:23). Death is the consequence of sins brought by the devil (2:24). The sacred author of our first reading contrasts death with life. When we ally with God through a good relationship, we have life. However, when we ally with the devil by sin, we experience death.

When we experience death through our sins, Jesus did not abandon us. He sacrificed his life on the cross to restore our lives. In our second reading, Saint Paul reminds the Corinthian believers and us of this gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ: “For [our] sake, Jesus became poor although he was rich so that by his poverty [we] might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). May the liturgy of this Mass restore our physical and spiritual lives Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD 

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – July 7, 2024

  14th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – July 7, 2024 Ezekiel 2:2-5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6   Theme: What to Do When We Experienc...