July 7, 2021

Lectionary Readings: Ezek 2:2-5; Ps.  123:1-2, 2, 3-4; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6

Theme: Despised and Rejected is part of the Messianic Duty

The gospel tells us of the rejection of Jesus in his hometown.  As a Jew, Jesus is firmly rooted in a larger family.  In his small ‘home town’, everyone knows everyone else.  When, on a Sabbath, his turn came to read and interpret the scriptures, he did it well.  His kinsmen had heard stories of his “wisdom” and the “miracles worked through him”, yet they remain relatively unimpressed.  It’s important to know that in the first century, there were many famous scholars whose teaching was generally admired.  The same is true for miracles and  extraordinary cures, which were not unheard of.  It’s therefore not astonishing that Jesus’ miracles impressed his contemporaries less than we might expect.  John, in his Gospel, calls them ‘signs’, which only those with faith understood.  They are pointers towards the coming Kingdom in and with Jesus.  Without faith their deepest significance remains incomprehensible.  Mark says that Jesus was “amazed at their lack of faith” – and surely disappointed. Remember the last two Sunday readings from Mark 4:35-5:43. This account is a somewhat unexpected twist as it happened after the stories of the four mighty works that  Jesus had performed:  the power over the wind and the waves;  the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac;  the healing of the woman suffering from bleeding; and the raising of the daughter of Jarius.

  In the Verses 2-3, the rejection was expressed in five somewhat disparaging “identity” questions on the source of Jesus’ power. In summary, the townspeople were asking: “Isn’t he just a craftsman?  What is the source of this extraordinary power given to one who is no different from whom we are?”

     Rejection occurs in many contexts and is often a painful experience, for it makes people feel they are not valued, accepted, and wanted. Among the common responses are: to hold back; become depressed; isolate oneself; express anger; or lash out.

   Mark does not tell us how Jesus felt;  but we learn Jesus responded by saying: “No prophet is without honor except in his own town.” This is an echo of the Old Testament theme of the rejected prophet as in the First Reading by the Prophet Ezekiel (2:5) and from other books: 2 Chron 36:16; Neh 9:26, 30; Hos 9:7. It also brings to mind the “Suffering servant” who is without honor among all people (Isa 53:3). The prophets had isolated, lonely, and bitter lives (Jer 9:1) and they had to contend with anguish, fear, ridicule, and even imprisonment (Jer 11:18-23).

Mark also tells us that because of the rejection, Jesus was unable to do any mighty deed, apart from healing a few sick people by laying hands on them.  This tells us that though there were still some people who believed in Jesus, he held back.  Was this because he was hurt? Or, was this because he did not want to irritate them?  We can speculate on this very human reaction of Jesus.  But what is clear was that it was a temporary reaction; Jesus continued his mission.

 In the Second Reading, Paul tells the Corinthians that despite a ”thorn” in his flesh, weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecution, and calamities, his ministry for the sake of Christ continued as “when I am weak, then I am strong.” (v. 10)

 Tying together the three readings, we learn that doing work in the vineyard of the Lord is not going to be easy for, among other things, rejection is par for the course. It will help to remember what the Lord said to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (v. 9).

For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Have you experienced rejection because of your faith? How did you deal with it?  2. Are you aware of people who are rejected? What are ways you can help them?

Bibliography: “Prophecy and Prophets” in Etz Hayim, Torah and Commentary (New York, 2001); Harrington, Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Mark (Minnesota, 2002, McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965), http://gcatholic.org/Catholic Study Bible (Senior D.)

This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Dunhill Malunar Timkang, Israel, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2023

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