The Path of Life

The Path of Life

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Do you know this man?

 Sunday, July 8, 2012
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time—B

Ezekiel 2:2-5
2Corinthians 12:7-10
Mark 6:1-6

Familiarity breeds contempt, the saying goes. We think we know a person, have him or her figured out, and are familiar with his or her background, thought processes, attributes. Nothing he or she can do or say will surprise us.

Impossible! No person thoroughly knows another, no matter how close they are, how much time they spend with one another, how long they have known one another. Even the most intimate of companions or spouses have unexamined or developing aspects of themselves. One’s skin contains only one person, and even he or she doesn’t fully comprehend who that person is or will become. Only the Creator of all knows all, as recounted in Psalm 139:

O Lord, it was you who created my being,
knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Already you knew my soul,
my body held no secret from you.

But when we think we really know someone (thinking we are God?), we tend to miss or dismiss their potential, to impose superficial limits on our own perspective (and that of others)—and, quite possibly, on the capabilities of the person in question. We observe someone and then shake our heads, cluck our tongues, and say, “He’s always been that way.”

Another opportunity lost!

I once worked with someone who, at the beginning of the shift, would smile, rub his hands, and proclaim, “I’m excited about the possibilities!” It was an inside joke in a difficult work environment, but he also really meant it. His was a voice of optimism in what could be an otherwise negative atmosphere. His proclamation gave me hope—and no small measure of amusement.

Such an attitude opens doors, presents fresh opportunities, and brings to light new perspectives. Applying this to our relationship with a person we may think we know all too well, we may ask: can we allow ourselves to be excited about the possibilities, to be open to a new encounter with the same old, same old, to see and hear the presence of Christ within him or her despite (or because of) all we know?

Last week’s Gospel touched on the role that faith has in the healing presence of Jesus. Today’s Gospel drives home the same point from a different approach. Are we able to have faith in Christ’s presence in the familiar, in what and whom we know (or think we know)? Even Jesus was taken for granted by those who knew him. Familiarity—even with Jesus—bred contempt.

Jesus attempts to proclaim the Good News in his native place, but is met with scorn: “Where did this man get all this? … Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary…?” In other words: “Who does he think he is? We know him, where he came from. He’s got some nerve trying to tell us what’s what!”

And so Jesus laments, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place.”

Because of the lack of faith exhibited by those who knew (or thought they knew) him best, we are told that Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty deeds there.” As flawed human beings, we disproportionately place our faith in strength, outward beauty, and wealth. When someone without such qualities—even Jesus—presents us with a prophetic challenge to look with an open heart at what and whom is all too familiar, we find it easy to overlook, dismiss, or scorn. We forget that “power is made perfect in weakness” (2Corinthians 12:9), the only remedy there is for the original sin of human pride. So it is that God became man, was born of a virgin, was quietly raised in humble circumstances, performed mighty deeds and taught great truths within the ordinariness of human living, was betrayed and crucified as a common criminal…and then was resurrected.

And so, today’s Gospel calls each of us to look with the eyes of faith at everything and everyone around us, to see the presence of Christ, to detect brand new possibilities within the familiar, and to acknowledge the power in weakness. We are called to hear the prophetic witness of the Good News from the most unlikely of sources, and to acknowledge that as much as we know, we really don’t know...

... Except, that is, through faith in the Person of Christ, who is all in all (cf. Ephesians 1:23). When we allow him entry into our hearts, we can then ask, as did the inhabitants of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday: “Who is this? (Matthew 21:10). Then, the knowledge of who Jesus is will truly reveal us in relation to God and one another.

Jesus is, quite simply, God’s Word to us, power made perfect in weakness:

"This is my son, the beloved,
with whom I am well pleased."

Matthew 3:17

"I am gentle and humble of heart."
Matthew 11:29

"I am there among them
[where two or three are gathered in my name]."
Matthew 18:20

"I am deeply grieved, even to death."
Matthew 26:38

"I am with you always."
Matthew 28:20

"I am [the Messiah, son of the Blessed One]."
Mark 14:61-62

"I am among you as one who serves."
Luke 22:27

"I am he [the Messiah],
the one who is speaking to you."
John 4:26

"I am the bread of life."
John 6:35

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven."
John 6:51

"I am the light of the world."
John 8:12

"I am the gate for the sheep."
John 10:7

"I am the good shepherd."
John 10:11

"I am the resurrection and the life."
John 11:25

"I am the way and the truth and the life."
John 14:6

"I am coming to you."
John 14:18

"I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you."
John 14:20

"I am the vine, you are the branches."
John 15:5

"I am thirsty."
John 19:28

"But who do YOU say that I am?"
Matthew 6:15

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