Apparently the people of Nazareth were not impressed with Jesus when he was a child or a young man. They saw him as just another boy from the neighborhood; just someone that they knew and knew perhaps all too well.
Most of the prophets in the Old Testament were ordinary men and women who received the call to prophecy at some later point in their lives. It is likely that they were not particularly religious or demonstrated any qualities that would merit them as leaders and prophets within the community.
Jesus goes “home” but home does not welcome him. He is challenged because he is not now the person that the neighbors presumed him to be.
This is true for most of us. If we are honest with ourselves we all know people, and many of us are that person that is not the child or adolescent suggested we would become. Hopefully for most of us this is a positive thing. For some it is the opposite.
It is especially challenging when we are blessed with a religious or faith conversion in our lives. The primary assumption that most people make when one of their relatives or friends “gets religion” is that he or she is a hypocrite. The weaknesses, tendencies and sins of the past are presumed to just be lurking beneath the surface or covered up through some form of psychological compensation. We have an almost innate need to hold the person to who they were and not who they are.
Because of this it is often hard for us to appreciate and understand the growth and development in others. Many people reject the faith and values of their past for what they presume to be an enlightened new way when, indeed, they have lost sight of their core and of the truths that they ought to have inculcated into their lives.
While we need to be discerning and we always need to listen and be open to how and where the Lord is calling us in our lives. We need to be especially aware of those to whom the Lord sends us as prophets – those who challenge us to a deeper relationship with the Lord, confront our sinfulness or undermine our prevailing self-centered world view.
All too often when the prophets in our world – whether it be the Pope, the bishop, or just someone with a discerning heart – offers a challenge or a correction we respond negatively. Sometimes it is the hubris of thinking we are right. Other times we don’t like the message. More often than not we just find some reason not to like the person. We judge quickly and easily, therefore closing the door.
The Jewish exiles in Babylon didn’t want to hear from Ezekiel. The people of Nazareth didn’t want to hear from Jesus. They were curious but unprepared and unwelcoming to the word that the Lord wanted them to hear.
We would rather spend time with the prophet who fed us than the one who took the food from us Yet, it is often the one who unsettles us who has the message we need to hear.
July 12 – We are all called to share in the mission of the 12 apostles
While we will often hear people observe that Jesus didn’t intend to found a church (or the Church) and that the Sacraments are later “inventions” by the Church that Jesus presumably didn’t intend, the Gospel evidences that the opposite is true.
On this 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we see Jesus send forth his disciples two by two specifically to exercise ministry in his name. While it is true that Jesus did not instruct his disciples to construct buildings where the faithful would assemble, we see in his sending forth of the disciples the very foundation of the work that these same men would accomplish as apostles just a short time later. While this commissioning event might be the apostles’ internship or ministry practicum, it must indeed look like what they were to do when Jesus moved on.
Let us consider, then, what it is that they were instructed to do. First, it is important that they were sent. Throughout the tradition of the Jewish tradition the prophets were sent by God. They did not go merely on their own accord. In the Liturgy of Ordination for deacons, priests and bishops this sense of commissioning is essential. One is both chosen and sent. The mandate comes from Christ and through Christ to the Church.
It is also key that they were sent in pairs. This provides for the core of community and offers the opportunity for shared mission and the checks and balances that come with belonging. As singular and lonely as ministry can appear to be at times, it always happens within the broader context of the Church. None of us is called to do it alone even when it is alone that we are doing it. We are always mindful of the Church and the broader context of ministry. When this is lost or forgotten then the dangers of loneliness and confusion occur.
The disciples are also instructed to both seek hospitality and to be hospitable, but also to be discerning. When they encounter hostility instead of hospitality they were to move on. Our role is to seek out those who are searching and open, and not to engage with the virulent and hostile opposition. Better to seek those who search than to waste ones time with those who do not.
The call to simplicity of life is also an important element of Jesus’ instruction. They are not to be burdened by the stuff of life. It is the Word that they carry and proclaim that is to be their sustenance. They will be provided for, it is not their concern. In a practical sense this was and remains the most challenging.
As with John the Baptizer the disciples’ first proclamation was that of repentance from sin. They could not as yet proclaim the fullness of the Gospel since the Paschal events had yet to occur. The message they will proclaim as apostles is not the same message they do here.
That notwithstanding, theirs is a ministry of breaking the Kingdom of God into the world through the exorcism of demons. Mark sees the mission of Jesus in eschatological terms and therefore the disciples were to be eschatologists themselves: destroy the back of Satan, issue the call to repentance and forgive sins.
It is the sacramental gesture of anointing with oil those who are ill that must also draw our attention. Here Jesus anticipates the action of the anointing of the sick, which we hear more about in the New Testament Letter of James.
What we see then here in its nascent form is the work of the Church. All of us who share in the baptismal priesthood, are called to evangelize and protect our own from the onslaught of sin and evil. To the extent that we, even in a small way, engage in works of mercy and charity, we are standing with the apostles and the entire Church, in responding to the call of discipleship we see in today’s Gospel.
Father Garry Koch is administrator of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.[[In-content Ad]]