The gospel passage for this Sunday is St Mark’s version of Jesus’ return to his home town of Nazareth, accompanied by his disciples. He began to teach in Nazareth, and many were astonished by what they saw in him. They wondered where all this wisdom had come from. What they saw was very different from what others had seen. This man was one of them, in the deepest sense; they knew him and his family. The people of the town would not accept him; even though they had heard of his outstanding accomplishments in other places, they could not see what made him so special.
The story of what happened to Jesus when he decided to return to his town is a familiar story, one that happens to all of us: we achieve wonderful things far away from home – in another city, or perhaps in some other part of the world, where we are not well known; then the time comes when we know we must return to our own country and teach there, and we find that people at home do not see us in the same way.
As you reflect on this passage, you may find yourself identifying with the people who rejected Jesus because he was so well known to them. Or you may prefer to identify with Jesus, remembering times when you or others had an experience like his. If you are taking this approach you might like to read it as a necessary journey of “returning to reality”. Feel free, also, to read the story symbolically, taking “going home” to mean the journey to the deepest truth of ourselves.
“The false idealist skips over the real. He skips the mediation of time in order to land full-blown in the ideal, ultimate society where everything is taken care of. He dreams, he does not hope.” Jacques Ellul
Lord, we remember with gratitude
the time we had a deep experience of conversion
and then had to make a journey back to everyday life:
– we made a Life-in-the-Spirit seminar;
– we went to confession after a long time away from the sacraments;
– we attended a meeting of our religious community and returned all fired up.
The time came when, like Jesus,
we had to leave that beautiful place and return home.
Naturally enough, people were astonished when they heard us speak;
they asked sarcastically what was this new wisdom
that had suddenly been granted us,
what miracles did we expect to be worked through us.
We were no different from what we had been before, they told us,
and our parents, our brothers and sisters were there to remind us of this.
We were amazed to see that our own enthusiasm was not universally shared.
But today, Lord, we thank you for that experience;
it taught us that we cannot work miracles overnight.
We may feel a lot of enthusiasm within ourselves,
but that does not mean we can get others to see things as we do.
Sometimes we have to be content, as Jesus was, to cure a few sick people
by laying our hands on them.
“Humility is the virtue by which, knowing ourselves as we really are, we become lowly in our own eyes.” …St Bernard
Lord, the biggest obstacles to conversion always lie within ourselves.
We don’t like facing up to this, but, like Jesus,
we must eventually leave the far away place and come home.
There, as Jesus did, we will hear voices coming from deep inside,
and these voices will be questioning us:
– do we really think that miracles can be worked through us?
– are not our parents, our brothers and sisters there to show us
that we are not different from what we were?
A whole part of ourselves rejects this new direction we are taking
and we are amazed at our lack of faith.
But Jesus taught us that a moment of grace is always resisted
by our long-standing relationships and within our deeper selves.
Lord, help us to make our journey of grace with Jesus,
to accept that we cannot work any great miracles on ourselves,
and to be content that we can lay our hands on some wounds and heal them.
“If people regarded me as a Messiah they were living in a fool’s paradise. I have no miracles.” …Nelson Mandela
Lord, our leaders often prefer to play a role in foreign countries
where they are more respected than in their own.
So, too, church leaders sometimes enjoy being present in other communities
where they are not well known.
Many of us feel more comfortable
away from our families or religious communities,
among people who only see part of who we are.
Help us to leave those far away places from time to time,
and to go to our home town,
like Jesus did, among our relatives and in our own homes,
even though we may feel despised.
We may not be able to work any great miracles,
but there are always a few sick people who need us
to lay our hands on them so that they may be cured.
“God only comes to those who, in patience, love his fore-runners and the provisional.” K. Rahner
Lord, how often you have sent Jesus to us in the form of someone we knew well,
but this person was just too ordinary for us.
All we could see was the carpenter, the son of our neighbour,
one whose brothers and sisters were there with us,
and so we would not accept him.
How true it is, as Jesus said, that a prophet is only despised in his own country,
among his own relations and in his own house.
So the great miracle you had in store for us could not be worked.
Lord, have mercy.
“We all want to be famous people and the moment we want to be something we are no longer free.” …Krishnamurthi
Lord, we want to do great deeds.
Free us from all ambition,
so that when we cannot work miracles
we will be content to cure a few sick people by laying hands on them.