Year B: Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Rejection at Nazareth

A prophet is not without honor, except in his native place.
Mark 6: 1-6

 He 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 Joseph 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.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. In this story Jesus is pre-judged based on his family and history as a hometown boy. What is your tendency to prejudge others based on perception or appearances rather than waiting to experience of who they are?
  2. How do you relate to this idea that “God works through Jesus so, God works through you, and faith is the conduit? When have you experienced faith as a co-creational relationship with God? Share the experience.
  3. What does this story say to you about Faith as a process of “letting go” and the importance of granting freedom to other people and to God?
  4. 4. Where in your life and in the life of the church, do you see the safe, familiar, and predictable as a barrier to recognizing Christ among us ?
  5. If you were to change something about your “hometown,” something that would help you see Christ standing in the midst of wherever and everywhere you are what would it be?

Biblical Context

Mark 6: 1-6
Mary M. McGlone CSJ

Today’s selection from Mark closes a section of the Gospel (3:7-6:6) and by recounting Jesus’ rejection by his own people, it ends with a failure even more dramatic than the plots the Pharisees and Herodians began to weave against him. Up to this point in the Gospel, we have heard very little of Jesus’ own teaching. Until he told the parable of the sower and the seed, Mark had only told us that Jesus responded to questions and critics and preached the nearness of the kingdom of God. His teaching took place much more through action than words and both his actions and his words demonstrated his unbridled freedom from anything that would constrain the coming of the kingdom of God.

Now Jesus appears in his own hometown. The synagogue in Nazareth is the second synagogue in which Mark tells us that Jesus preached — his first synagogue appearances were in Capernaum, mentioned in Chapters 1 and 3. Mark tells us that Jesus “astonished” the people of Nazareth. The word “astonish” implies that he aroused intense interest but not necessarily any fealty or even real respect. Rather than provoking hope, Jesus’ familiar but challenging presence sparked a series of reservations and questions about him and what made him capable of saying and doing what he did.

It’s notable that his neighbors didn’t ask about the truth or goodness of what he did, but rather about where he got the knowledge, wisdom, and power to do it all. The people of Nazareth knew his background and therefore they thought they knew his limits as well as they knew their own. Their problem was the scandal of the Incarnation. As long as God is far off and awesome, it’s easy to believe and still avoid the responsibility to be godlike. But when God appears as one of us, the expectations for us to be more become too great. The sad truth seems to be that the very people of Nazareth were the first to question whether anything good could come from Nazareth (John 1:46). Their faith was crippled by their limited expectations. Jesus could work no mighty deeds among them.

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.

Christ Comes to Our Hometown.

Mark 6: 1-6
Fr. Michael K. Marsh

Hometowns – we all have one. Some of the best things about hometowns are the comfort, familiarity, and stability they offer. And some of the most difficult things about hometowns are the comfort, familiarity, and stability they offer. Hometowns should be that place where everyone knows you. Often, however, they are the place where people only know about you. Jesus has returned to his hometown. Mark puts it like this, “[Jesus] left that place and came to his hometown” (Mk. 6:1).

The first thing we need to recognize is that this is more than just a physical movement from one location to another. “That place” and “hometown” are not so much geographical locations as they are archetypes and symbols of ways in which we see and understand Jesus, ways in which we either recognize or fail to recognize him.

“That place” is not simply a physical location. It is the place of miracles, the place where Christ calmed the sea, freed the Gerasene demoniac of his demons, healed the hemorrhaging woman, and raised to life the dead daughter of Jairus (Mk. 4:35-5:43). “That place” is the place of transcendence, the place that dazzles and impresses us. It seems pretty easy to trust the Jesus of “that place.” After all we can point to evidence and results. Our prayers sometimes demonstrate an almost exclusive understanding of Jesus in terms of “that place” as we pray for cancer to healed, an addiction to be broken, behavior to be changed, a marriage to be fixed, or even a parking place to appear. I sometimes wonder if we prefer Jesus to stay in “that place.” But he does not. He comes to the hometown.

“Hometown” is not simply a city. It refers to more than Nazareth. If “that place” is the place of transcendence, then “hometown” is the place of immanence and intimate presence.  “Hometown” is the place of excessive familiarity, comfort, and stability. It is the place where life is ordinary, routine, and mundane. One day is like another and nothing much ever changes. “Hometown” is, as Jesus experiences, the place where everyone knows your name and all about you. But they do not necessarily know you. It is the place in which everyone is so close they can become closed. So, the town’s people can say to Jesus, “We know all about you. You are the carpenter, Mary’s son. And by the way we know all about Mary and that angel story! We know your brothers, and your sisters are right here with us.”

They are right. They know all about him. But they do not know him. And Jesus is amazed at their unbelief. I cannot help but wonder if he is not also amazed at their unbelief in themselves. In some way our rejection of or failure to recognize Christ is a rejection of ourselves and a failure to recognize our true self. Beneath their words lie the unspoken assumptions:

  • Surely God’s holy one cannot come from our very midst, a carpenter, the son of Mary, someone just like us.
  • Surely that which is holiest and closest to God cannot coincide with that which is most familiar and closest to us.

Those assumptions are absolutely wrong. Despite our failure to recognize Jesus and our denials that God is with us, that God is in us, and that God is among us Christ continues to show up in our “hometown.”

It seems that the most difficult place for God to reveal God’s self is in that which is closest and most familiar to us, in the “hometown.” We all have our Nazareths, our hometowns. They are our attitudes, beliefs, prejudices, patterns of thinking, habits of behavior, and ways of seeing and relating to God, each other, and ourselves. All these things help make life predictable, safe, familiar, and comfortable. There is nothing necessarily wrong with these things. But they can and often do lead to blindness, deaf ears, closed minds, and hardened hearts.

The tragedy of life in Nazareth, the “hometown,” is that we can easily lose that sense of mystery, wonder, awe, and sacredness not only in the people and events with which we are closest and most familiar but also in ourselves. We have become too comfortable, too familiar, and too secure and we are often unable to recognize the Christ who is standing with us and among us.

Christ is always coming into our “hometown” speaking words of wisdom, doing deeds of power, and offering more than we can imagine. So maybe we should stop looking for him in “that place” out there somewhere and look in the people, relationships, events, and circumstance of life that are closest to us, that occupy our time, and demand our attention.

So, I wonder, if you were to change something about your “hometown,” something that would help you see Christ standing in the midst of wherever and everywhere you are what would it be?

Reflection excerpt from: Interrupting the Silence, Fr. Michael K. Marsh