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cappie

FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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cappie

Our Gospel for this Sunday immediately follows upon last week’s stories of the raising of Jairus’s daughter and the healing of the woman with a haemorrhage. 

It sets the context of our Gospel readings for the next two weeks in which Jesus will extend the work of his ministry to his disciples. The story opens in his hometown, and his disciples follow him. It’s an interesting detail. Jesus is from Nazareth and his disciples are from Galilee. They have walked with him back home. It is an interesting and significant detail; Jesus is returning home, but he’s different in several ways now, not the least of which is that he has followers.

The ones in the synagogue who hear Jesus preaching are astonished. They are in awe. Then the analysis comes on: “Don’t we know this guy; didn’t he install your cabinets?” “That’s right! I know his brothers and sisters.” Something like that. After all this wondering and recognition, the next sentence the gospel uses is: “And they would not accept him.” 

Why do you suppose that was? They were astonished, but when they saw that he was “one of them,” suddenly, he is not acceptable. Jesus then demonstrates a masterful use of the double negative, “A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house.” And the narrator tells us that Jesus couldn’t do any deeds of power except a few healings. Indeed, Jesus is amazed at their lack of faith and it seems that there is some connection between trusting Jesus and Jesus being able to work. This matter of Jesus not being able to work is not the same as praying harder, by the way, but there is a connection between Jesus working and the offense the people feel at his presence and teaching.

Jesus and his followers then leave Nazareth.  You would think that given the cold reception Jesus received in his hometown that Jesus would then give them the old razzle-dazzle 

He doesn’t do a deed of power to embarrass the old home locals; he instead authorizes others to go out in his name to heal, testify to God’s love, to call out evil. This is very instructive about how our God operates generally. Never a braggadocious moment, never a moment of old-fashioned power like lightning from above—instead, it’s a new-fashioned power that points away from itself and pours into others.

This is how God operates, and it is something for us to remember as we move through this season of Ordinary Time: The Holy Spirit is God’s sharing of God’s-self with us: God’s empowering of us for the work of establishing God’s Kingdom, God’s way of living, right here in our own communities.

Besides all this, we see something in the story that is as troubling as it is interesting. Jesus is unrecognized in his hometown. He is recognized of course, but he is not accepted as one who is deeply connected with God. Indeed, once they do begin to recognize him, they are offended by him. And it’s in this offense and un-trust, this unbelief, that Jesus cannot work as powerfully as he would have normally.

This should concern all of us who claim to know who and what Jesus is. The church is the hometown of Jesus, as it were.  Do we allow Jesus to be Jesus or have we domesticated him into a mere kindly carpenter? The church has, at times, carefully kept Jesus in a safe and contained box, but Jesus keeps leaving the familiar, keeps empowering others, and most importantly keeps showing up in strange places.

 Of course, we meet in this space each week. We certainly believe that Jesus is present with us, especially in the Holy Eucharist; but Jesus is also found outside, in the world. Don’t you know that we disciples are always playing catch-up to the Risen Lord? Ever since that day when the women found an empty tomb, ever since then, we have been going to where Jesus has gone ahead of us, into Galilee, into the villages, into our neighbourhoods. And once we go there, seeing him in the face our neighbours, he will be revealed, and we just might be empowered to do his work: healing wounds, preaching God’s love, and calling out evil, not simply following him, but being empowered by him to do his work of love and healing which the world so desperately needs.
 

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