July 4, 2021
Deacon Bill Sheffield
Prince of Peace Catholic Community, Houston, Texas
Reading 1 – Ezekiel 2:2-5
As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me
and set me on my feet,
and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites,
rebels who have rebelled against me;
they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.
Hard of face and obstinate of heart
are they to whom I am sending you.
But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD!
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.
Reading 2 – 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he 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 said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.
One of the main reasons that I decided to retire, other than my body telling me to, was this. One day, I was informed that I had to attend a training class. Maybe I suffered a lack of humility. After all I had been doing this job for 37 years. I had experienced virtually every scenario possible and was successful in remediating those emergencies. I had countless certifications and had attended unnumbered training classes. I was even chosen and served on the Texas FEMA emergency response team which required the highest level of training possible. Reluctantly, I attended and much to my surprise, the person who was facilitating the training was actually an individual who I had trained some 15 years earlier. How I wondered, was this ordinary person that I knew so well going to be able to offer me something I didn’t already know or something that I hadn’t taught him previously. Honestly, I probably was a bit closed minded about the entire situation. There again was that pride or lack of humility issue surfacing.
In today’s gospel from Mark we are warned of the danger to our faith when the messenger is too ordinary. You see the friends and neighbors of Jesus rejected him precisely because they knew him and knew him so well.
The people are not rejecting Jesus personally, nor are they rejecting God. They know that God can speak to them and, indeed, has spoken to them many times through the prophets.
What they are rejecting is not Jesus or God, but the very possibility of one of their own local people having a word from God to them. After all, Jesus is one of them, nobody particularly special in their eyes. Didn’t Joseph teach Jesus to be a carpenter. Didn’t Mary teach him to make bread. Didn’t his friends teach him games. What could Jesus this ordinary man know that they didn’t already know? What could Jesus possibly add to their knowledge of God?
It is the old mystique of the so called “expert.” Many years ago, when many things were changing in the church for example, and people were trying to stay informed, they would hire specialists in all fields from all over the country to instruct them. People did not trust their home-grown wisdom. They had to hear it from an expert. The credentials of the expert were secondary; an “expert” was simply anyone from out of town with a briefcase.
It was much the same in the time of Jesus. An ordinary man, especially one whose diaper they had changed, could not be an expert on anything. Least of all an expert on God. Because Jesus and they lived ordinary boring, unspectacular lives unworthy of God’s attention. They would have listened to Isaiah or Ezekiel or Jeremiah because they were from out of town and a long time ago and warned of disasters and monumental events.
And here was Jesus, the local carpenter, talking about lilies and sheep and the kingdom of God. Sure, they anticipated God to rule the world in person someday. But God surely could not be bothered with their grubby little lives in this tiny village. They might expect a word from God from the high priest in the Jerusalem temple; but not a carpenter; not from Nazareth.
Times haven’t changed in that respect. Business consultants come from all over the country telling people how to run the business they have been successfully running for decades. Education gurus who have never taught a class tell teachers how to motivate their students. Missionaries rush in to save the parish in three days.
Why are we more impressed with experts and programs and almost anyone else’s wisdom than our own experience? Why do we think that nothing good can come from Nazareth, or Tomball or Cypress or wherever we live? Why do wee imagine that God would find somebody better or smarter or richer or holier to deal with us? Why do we often believe that our little lives are too insignificant for God to get involved?
Jesus led an ordinary, unknown existence in a backwater village to show us that everyday lives are good enough for God.
Jesus was God in the flesh. He laughed, cried, suffered, slept, ate and worked to help us appreciate the value God invests in the mundane activities. The whole point of the Incarnation was to get God physically involved in earthly doings. God is not an expert from heaven with a briefcase. God is our neighbor, our friend, our co-worker our hometown wisdom. If he thinks that our life is worth living, then maybe we out to live it with him.
St. Mark tell us that Jesus “could do no good deed of power there”. Isn’t it extraordinary to think that there are situations where we can “tie God’s hands”. Holman Hunt’s famous painting in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London has Jesus the Good Shepherd knocking on a door without a latch. He explained that the door of our heart can only be opened from the inside. With God there is no forcible entry. This decision to accept him as he is, to admit Him into our hearts is ours. God isn’t out there somewhere he is always present to us. May we find God in those ordinary everyday experiences of our lives.