Ordinary Time, Sunday 14. Words of the Word.

Your merciful love, O God, we have received in the midst of Your temple. Your praise, O God, like Your name, reaches the ends of the earth; Your right hand is filled with saving justice (Psalm 48:10-11)

O God, Who in the abasement of Your Son
have raised up a fallen world,
fill Your faithful with holy joy,
for on those You have rescued from slavery to sin
You bestow eternal gladness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever.

Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy. (Psalm 123:2).

“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 (ἐσκανδαλίζοντο, eskandalizonto) 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 (ἐθαύμαζεν, ethaumazen) at their lack of faith (ἀπιστίαν, apistian). (Mark 6:1-6).”

Permit a return to the Gospel episodes proclaimed last week. Jairus trusted that Jesus would, somehow – someway, accomplish an appropriate work responding to his daughter’s death. The Afflicted Woman knew that all she had to do was touch Jesus’ clothes and she would be well. These 2 actions - trusting and knowing – form core elements of Biblical faith. As mentioned last week, faith is not a thing. It is not a commodity that can increase provided one learns a proper technique. Faith is a way of living and a way of responding to the encounter with the Person Jesus. In the encounter with Him, the disciple knows to the core of her or his being that Jesus’ direction for life is the only path for that gift of eternal healing known as salvation.

Against that backdrop, Jesus returns to one of his home bases during the Public Ministry. It is here that the evangelist Mark records all sorts of questions dealing with one of the principle questions of the Gospels, “Who is Jesus?” It is a question whose answer is not as easy as one might think. Indeed one can spout phrases from the Creed or a catechism. One can hurl bible quotes dazzling the listener(s) with one’s memorizing skills. But is all of this reflecting a type of knowledge at the core of one’s being that daily challenges the disciple to daily conversion and to daily embrace of the Cross? It is obvious that many of the close relatives and friends of Jesus had Him ‘figured out.’ Jesus is a carpenter and the slam here is that no one who works with His hands could ever have the requisite wisdom to teach “us” in the synagogue. We know His mother. We know His close relatives; therefore case closed and we will not listen because we have Him sized up and of course, we know it all, we know better!

The Evangelist Mark summarizes the situation in writing, “And they took offense (ἐσκανδαλίζοντο, eskandalizonto) at him.” “To cause scandal (σκανδαλίζω, skandalizo)” or “a scandal (σκάνδαλον, skandalon)” is used often in the Sacred Scriptures in reference to sin. In the biblical world, σκανδαλίζω (skandalizo) meant “to put a stumbling block in the path of another that caused one to trip and fall.” Particularly horrifying are some lexicons that note this was done to a blind person! When dealing with σκανδαλίζω (skandalizo) we are dealing with an action that is serious, knowledge that the action is serious and consent of the will (sound familiar?). σκανδαλίζω (skandalizo) is not an accidental action. In the case of Jesus’ visit, His family and friends have put a stumbling block in front of themselves causing themselves to trip over the true identity of Jesus. It is not that they are ignorant, in truth, their ‘factual’ grasp of Jesus is quite accurate but they will not permit this factual knowledge to make deeper connections. They are satisfied with what they know and it enables a ‘comfortable’ approach to Jesus.

Jesus is affected certainly by the approach of His family and friends, “He was amazed (ἐθαύμαζεν, ethaumazen) at their lack of faith (ἀπιστίαν, apistian).” Often, the Gospels use ἐθαύμαζεν (ethaumazen) to describe the astonishment of the crowd when Jesus taught or healed. ἐθαύμαζεν (ethaumazen) expresses a powerful pondering attempting to make connections between the present reality of the here-and-now with the transcendence of eternity. However, when knowledge is willfully skewed coupled with a decision not to trust, even the Son of God sadly and profoundly asks, “Why?”

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