July 4; 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Year B

14th OT2 20 21God's Faithful Messengers, not Public Relations Officers

Our Lord wins admiration throughout the land except in His own town. You would expect that His fellow townsfolk would be exhilarated and would have given Him a hero’s welcome to fete His accomplishments and fame, the very fame that had made His hometown famous - He’s not just Jesus but Jesus of “Nazareth”. The small insignificant town could never have made it into the big leagues without the help of their most celebrated son. But instead, He encounters failure and rejection. Saint Mark poignantly notes: “And they would not accept him.”
That Sabbath, as was His custom in other towns, our Lord begins to teach in the synagogue. His townspeople were “astonished” when they heard Him but their astonishment was not one of admiration as in the other places. Here, it took the form of incredulity. In their minds, our Lord was just “one of the guys”, nothing extraordinary about Him, in fact their familiarity with Him and His family led to a sort of contempt. Their disdain for Him even suggests that our Lord was only fit for the carpenter’s job, that He had been associated with. He could not amount to anything more. And so, they asked, “Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him?” These questions did not reveal a sincere search for the truth but rather betrayed their indignant scepticism.

The result of their incredulity seemed to have impacted our Lord’s power. But it is not that our Lord lost the power to perform miracles in their midst. Their lack of faith was the real problem and the obstacle. It would have prevented them from seeking out the Lord to ask for a favour. If they have a roof to mend or a furniture to make, then the obvious choice was to look for Jesus, the carpenter, the Son of Mary. But if they were looking for a miracle, Jesus would be the last candidate on the list. If they are always looking out for the faults and shortfalls of the other, they will be prevented from recognising the action of God even if this was to take place before their eyes.

What are some lessons which we can take away from this disturbing story, a story which seemed to show up the powerlessness of our Lord?

First, our Lord shows us that it is okay to fail but it is not okay to give up. The fact is, every wonderful invention, every widely held positive belief turned into positive action, is the direct result of someone who did not give up. It’s also a fact that you’re going to fail once in a while, no matter how hard you try not to fail. Everybody fails. Yes, everybody, including our Lord in His hometown. The important thing is how you respond to your failure. Our Lord refused to be beaten, to be cowed into submission, to be discouraged and pushed back to His old life, a carpenter living in anonymity. He understood that what seems to be failure, may actually be victory and success. This is what happened at the cross.

Second, our Lord shows us that the true measure of success is not public approval, it has nothing to do with what people think of you. If everyone of us allows other’s opinion to shape us, we will no longer have any firm bearing or direction. Our Lord’s life shows us that the true measure of our worth, is not determined by success or public opinion but by our fidelity to the Father’s Will. We should only be concerned with doing the Father’s Will, even if that means receiving mockery, rejection and opposition from others, including our loved ones and closest friends.

Third, the story teaches us that knowing something about someone does not mean we know everything about the person. How often have we been guilty of sizing up someone, putting them into a box, dismissing their potential and drawing lasting conclusions about their true worth? Let us be honest. Many of us have done that, and repeatedly still do it. Dismissing someone whom we do not like may have dire consequences. We could be turning our back on God who is using this person to speak to us.

At baptism, you have received a share in the triple munera of Christ as priest, prophet and king. A priest is meant to worship, a prophet is meant to speak and a king is meant to lead. When we abdicate these roles in our daily lives, we are turning our backs on our baptismal identity and the call of Christ to be His representatives on earth. Admittedly, being a prophet and to live and speak prophetically is never easy. To stand against the world of denial is an extremely lonely occupation and it leaves many isolated from society and without honour in their own family. But remember - a prophet is only despised in his own country. Christ, possibly more than any other prophet, knew this. And it is in Him that we would find our model and inspiration. A prophet doesn’t take his cue or directions from his audience. He takes it from God.

In Christ’s life, we come to learn that it is okay to fail, but not okay to give up; that the true measure of success in our vocation is not public acceptance but fidelity to God’s plans; and finally, that we should never be too quick and arrogant to boast of our knowledge, for when we are so conditioned and limited by what we think we know, we will never be truly open to what God wishes to reveal to us. At the end of the day, we are called to be God’s faithful messengers, and not the public relations spokesmen with a human agenda.