At last we are back to “Ordinary Time” for our liturgies. We have run through all the special times: Lent, Easter, Easter season, the Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Peter and Paul and so on. Time to settle down and have some ordinary weeks, to know Jesus in his ordinary life.
But what do we find as we return to the ordinary? We find Jesus preaching and nobody listening. He has come back “to his native place,” Nazareth, and even though the people were astonished at his wisdom, their immediate reaction is to “take offense at him.”
Why? Why did they not welcome him and listen?
For one thing, it was his home town, so people already had him in a category—carpenter, the guy who lives down the street, son of that working couple Joseph and Mary. Who does he think he is preaching all this new stuff?
We do not have a record of what he said, although in chapter four of Mark he had told the story of the seeds that fell on different kinds of ground and how some grew, but the rest had only shallow or no soil from which to develop. The Gospel for this coming Sunday is an illustration of the parable. Nothing can grow from barren soil.
You and I should ask what kind of “soil” we ourselves are. When the Word of God has taken seed in us does it get any nourishment, or do we just go along like pre-programmed computers? This is a searching question, something to pray about, tough, likely to make us uncomfortable. If he preached that way in Nazareth, perhaps he was too rough on them and that is why they turned away.
Whatever the reason, the fact remains that “he was not able to perform any mighty deed there.”
This always has been a rather puzzling situation. After all, if Jesus is the Messiah, he should be able to work whatever deeds he wants to, no matter what the reaction.
But this is the underlying point of Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus’ healing and preaching are not something one person does in order to process another, sort of like a surgical doctor operating on a patient (or like a mechanic fixing a car). We sometimes picture it that way when we pray for things. Fix it, O God, fix it.
Instead, Jesus was always pointing to the relational nature of everything he did. When he did a miracle he would say “your faith has saved you.” What? I thought you saved me, Lord. Yes, but there has to be a fertile seed-bed first. Faith is the rich soil that lets God be planted in and flourish within our lives. He will never force teachings or miracles on us until we are ready to relate to him in love. This is why Sunday’s Gospel ends with the words “He was amazed at their lack of faith.”
We have to release Jesus and God from the categories we have fixed them into. We may have to have our own ground plowed up a bit to let the rich fertility inside us be opened to the seeds of love, wisdom, hope and faith that God wants to plant there.
We need to start putting love first.