July 09, 2018
Spiritual writers often suggest that when reading Scripture we imagine that we are personally present in the story, that we assume the identity of one of the characters in the action, that we identify with the unfolding event. Such a practice can bring us not only to a heartfelt experience of the Gospel story but also possibly see ourselves in a new light.
The Gospel of last Sunday, Mark 6:1-6, lends itself well to this type of prayerful consideration. Jesus having begun his public ministry of preaching, teaching and healing has returned to his own neighborhood and on the Sabbath has begun to teach in the synagogue but he is not received well at all. The people of Nazareth are scandalized by his presence.
The nerve of this laborer trying to preach to us. He is a local carpenter, isn’t he? Not a scholar of the Torah, not a genuine rabbi, not even an elder. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his family. Look at him; his clothes are those of a common laborer. Who does he think he is telling us how we should live?
Although some acknowledged “the mighty deeds wrought by his hands,” the group as a whole couldn’t get past their preconceived notion of the man they thought they knew. And the pressure of the crowd silenced those who might have wanted to hear more from Jesus. Mob mentality prevailed. “He was amazed at their lack of faith.”
The Gospel account does not mention what Jesus was teaching that day. His objectors were not upset by the content of his words. Rather they objected so strongly to his very presence that they never even heard the message. Their arrogance, jealousy, and bigotry closed their ears and their hearts. They rejected the messenger and, hence, never heard the message.Jesus was “not able to perform any mighty deed there” because they had closed the door of their hearts.
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place.” Preconceived notions based on ignorant assumptions continue to stifle dialogues today. Who are the people that you tend to shut out from your consideration for whatever reason? Are they ones of a certain age, or gender, or political party, or nationality, or race, or religious affiliation, or economic bracket, or level of education, or occupation, or style of clothing/manners/speech/musical preference …? The list of reasons for ignoring someone goes on and on and on. If we are honest, we all can find our prejudices there someplace – possibly right in our own homes. You might want to consider whom you tend to push to the margins, whomyou tend to categorize as being “one of those” without any personal knowledge of the individual. If you risk an overture of friendship to one of “those people ” and get to know one even a little bit, you may be surprised to find a person of worth who has an enriching truth to share. If you are truly attentive, you may also discover a refreshingly softening sense of compassion that you had not experienced before.