Homily for the fourteenth Sunday of the year - Year B - Mk. 6:1-6
Father Daniel Meynen
" Jesus went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, 'Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?' And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.' And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching."
" Jesus went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him."
Jesus preaches the good news of the Kingdom throughout Galilee, and, in the course of his journey, he goes to his hometown of Nazareth. Jesus is leading his public life: he is completely dedicated to his Father's business, and wholly occupied with explaining, through parables, in what consists that Kingdom of God of which he is the mediator, the interpreter and the prophet! Jesus is busy speaking of the Kingdom of his Father, he speaks of the celestial Homeland, which he promises as an inheritance for all eternity to those who will have believed until the end in his word, that divine word which bestows grace! It is in this spirit that Jesus returns to his homeland, not that of Heaven, but that of the earth. Devoted to his Heavenly Father's business, he returns to the village of his earthly father: Joseph.
" And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, 'Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him?' "
When Jesus begins to teach in the synagogue, the people who listen to him notice that he does not speak, or rather no longer speaks, as he used to do when he was with them, when he led the same life they did, an earthly and ordinary life, oriented toward things that are mainly limited to transitory and temporal well-being. But since that time, Jesus had begun his public life, he had received the testimony of his Father and of the Holy Spirit on the day of his baptism, he had called to himself disciples, such as Peter and Andrew: he had manifested to everyone to whom he went that he was the Master, the one who teaches and who has authority in Heaven and on earth. So, when he returns to Nazareth, the inhabitants are surprised and astonished: "What is the wisdom given to him?"
" 'What mighty works are wrought by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?' And they took offense at him."
Jesus had cousins, who are named here and called brothers: James, Joses, Judas and Simon. This appellation of "brothers" comes from the language of the narrator: here it refers solely to cousins, and not to brothers, strictly speaking. But all of this indicates to us that the people of Nazareth were speaking of someone they knew very well, without any possibility of their having mistaken him for someone else. Truly, the inhabitants of Nazareth knew Jesus well, but they knew him only in a human manner. They see Jesus, but they obstinately refrain from seeing anything more than the man they once knew. Exteriorly, Jesus had not changed, or at least not very much. But interiorly, the Holy Spirit had urged Jesus to testify to the eternal life that he is in person: the interior motion that Jesus felt within himself allowed him to exteriorly manifest all that he is eternally, in the presence of his Father in Heaven. The exterior of Jesus is the same, his physical appearance is identical, and yet there is something new to this being who had been believed to be absolutely ordinary! "And they took offense at him."
" And Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.' "
We attribute to Saint Francis de Sales the following quip: "No man is a saint to his valet." This means that those who are very close to a man or woman, whom God calls to bear witness to a rather exceptional grace, cannot help but be aware of the simply human side of that man or woman, the human side that ceaselessly tends to obscure the divine light that is always emanating from those whom God calls to his service. This is what happened to Jesus first, our model of humility and of bearing the scorn of others. "A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house."
This will be our lesson for today: let us love to remain humble and suffer contempt with the Lord. Let us receive within us today this little piece of bread, outwardly unremarkable, but which is the Bread of Life, he who is the Light of the world who came to teach us and to save us! Let us receive the Eucharist today in order to be prophets and witnesses to the Word, like Jesus: in today's communion, let us imitate Mary who, by her spotless faith, was the greatest of all the prophets of the Kingdom of God!