Jesus Teaching in the Synagogue, St. Elizabeth Convent Catalog.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. Mark 6:2.
Words highlighted in red are links to supporting materials.
Today’s gospel includes this deadly observation: “Is he [Jesus] not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” Jesus was so familiar to them that they could not believe that he, being so lowly born, could aspire to such a height as preaching in the holiest building in town. In other words, they stereotyped him; he was a common man, so he could not be a good preacher (despite the evidence of their own ears and eyes). Sound familiar? Stereotyping is, I believe, responsible for an enormous amount of suffering in the world, all of it unnecessary. Denying the humanity of a person because of incidentals (or accidentals as philosophers might call them), such as skin color, accent, type of work, education level and so on, is to deny that person’s God-given humanity. It is wrong, evil and sinful. Jesus was to be stereotyped later as the messiah as desired by the Jews, he who would rid them of the despised Roman occupiers and restore the kingdom of David. He wasn’t, and as he had failed to live up to that stereotype, he was put to death. Stereotyping is remorselessly evil.
Also, this passage, and the similar one in Matthew 13:55, is where Jesus is identified with a specific family in Nazareth, with mother, father and relatives enumerated. But the phrase “son of Mary” might also be an insult, as men were always called sons of their fathers, in this case it should have been Jesus son of Joseph, Y’shua bar-Yosef. But on this occasion he was called Y’shua bar-Miriam, almost certainly meant to be demeaning.
Then there is the very interesting statement about Jesus’ brothers and sisters, found in passages from Mark and Matthew. We have been brought up to believe that Jesus was an only child, born of a virgin who remained such forever, and was never married. The tradition that Jesus was an only child is extremely old and the Catholic Church has very old teaching surrounding that. However, the term “brother” can be very wide. For example, in Shakespeare’s play “Henry V”, before the battle of Agincourt, which was a spectacular English victory over the French, the king, rousing his reluctant troops, concludes by saying:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
So what has all this to say to us today? I think it is this. Too many times in my life I have been reluctant to speak of God’s presence within us and around us. I fear being condemned, just as Jesus was perhaps in today’s scene in the Synagogue, because I am just a regular fellow, nothing special, and afraid to hear words such as “Who does he think he is talking to us like that?” So I have remained many times silent. Jesus, on the other hand, did not remain silent, even though such words hurt him, resulting in He was not able to perform any mighty deed there, as it says in today’s gospel. Spiteful words can hurt deeply, and it takes courage to speak out about certain things, such as God’s mercy and love, when there is a danger of provoking a response like that. But, on reflection, and not wanting to be condemned as a holy Joe, carefully chosen words might be wholly salutary, deeply beneficent to those hearing them. Ezekiel was emboldened to speak by God’s strength in the first reading, and Paul actually states that when I am weak, then I am strong, able to speak with the power of Christ dwelling in him, not relying on his own power. That same power dwells in us. We too should be God’s mouthpiece when we are called to bear witness, for when we are weak, then we are strong, possessing the strength of God!
Jesus Christ preaching on a boat on the sea of Galilee, megapixl.com.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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