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, Especially 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 suggests we 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, especially 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 essential 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. It may happen that we do 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 no longer trust him. 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 our treatment.

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

 

 

 

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