•Ezekiel 2:2-5 • 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 • Mark 6:1-6•
Scripture Readings:14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
As we celebrate the civic holiday of July 4th remember this. To be free means to live in peace and to love without condition. We all yearn for world peace and for our cities to be havens of nonviolent love. We are a free people living in a free nation because our ancestors transformed their yearning for peace into reality. The 4th of July reminds us that like them, all of us also are able to transform our yearning for peace and nonviolence into reality. So during our celebration of liturgy today I invite you to renew your commitment to be a free people and a free nation.
In the gospel text today we heard Mark’s version of Jesus returning to the village of his youth. Apparently his reputation preceded him. His hometown friends and neighbors welcomed him. They thought they knew him better than anyone else. That changed when he stood and spoke in their synagogue on the Sabbath. They were “amazed when they heard him speak.”
Their welcome did not last long. “They took offense at him” or translated literally, “he was too much for them.” They had him pegged as the carpenter’s son. As he spoke they begin chatting among their peers, “where did he get all of this? What kind of wisdom has been given him?”
In this text Mark cautions his own community, and us. Listen to Jesus. Learn from him. Imitate him. But don’t presume you know him. Because of the formation provided us in our families, parishes and schools, most of us can probably tell gospel stories with a fair degree of accuracy. If asked questions about Jesus, we probably can provide adequate responses. Even so, don’t presume you know Jesus!
It seems that for most of us there is a disconnect between the Jesus of our youth and the adult Jesus. If we really knew Jesus and understood the gospel, do you think we would be passive about our nations use of weapons of mass destruction that kill innocent people? Do you think we would give priority to civic obligations like serving in the military, rather than embracing the nonviolent way of Jesus? Do you think we would we ignore the perceived threat of climate change?
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote a reflection about birds in which he observed this. “There is a kind of understanding between tame geese and wild geese. When a flock of wild geese is heard overhead, tame geese are instantly aware of it. They beat their wings, cry out and fly awkwardly along the ground. Then it is over.
“Once a wild goose decided it would try to win over the tame geese so they would join the flight. The wild goose wanted to save the tame geese from the wretched mediocrity of a life waddling around on earth.”
Jesus of Nazareth was that wild goose. He taught and modeled for us what we can become if we remain open to the Gracious Mystery we name God.
When we are familiar with someone, we assume we know that person. Mark and the other evangelists tell us those who thought they knew Jesus so well discover they do not know him. Most adult Catholics assume they know Jesus and the gospel because they know the stories. Yet the faith of far too many adult Catholics seems to remain infantile and superficial. Our limited knowledge and understanding of Jesus acquired in our youth tranquilizes us, making us indifferent to the revolutionary newness and demands of the gospel.
To be free means to live in peace and nonviolent love. The Risen Christ calls us to create a world in which peace and nonviolence are real for all people. In him we can find meaning and purpose. In him we can find the moral and spiritual compass that will guide us to the sort of reality for which we yearn. Both are possible but yearning is never a substitute for reality. World peace is possible. A nonviolent world is possible. Don’t presume you know Jesus of Nazareth or the gospel. Knowing him is a lifelong process.