The 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 4, 2021
Lectionary Readings: Ezek 2:2-5; Ps. 123:1-2, 2, 3-4; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6
Theme: Rejection as part of mission
The gospel tells us of the rejection of Jesus in his hometown. This is a somewhat unexpected twist as it happened after the stories of the four mighty works Jesus had done – 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 (Mark 4:35 – 5:43).
The rejection was expressed in five somewhat disparaging “identity” questions on the source of Jesus’ power (vv 2-3). 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, and 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 next pericope, (Mark 6:6b-13), Mark tells us that Jesus then left for a teaching tour of the surrounding villages. He also gave the commission charge to the twelve disciples and among his instructions to them is how to deal with rejection (6:11): “If any place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave immediately and shake the dust from your feet as evidence against them.” (One explanation for the shaking of the dust from Jewish sources state that it is an “act of deprecation” used by Jews when returning from pagan or unclean lands.) Jesus also continued doing mighty works as he performed two other healings (7:31-37; 8:22-26), and two miraculous feedings (6:35-44; 8:1-10).
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” inEtz Hayim, Torah and Commentary (New York, 2001); Harrington, Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Mark (Minnesota, 2002)
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumna July 2014