There will be no service on Thursday (8th July) but there will be Parish Mass the following Sunday at the usual time.
“A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house”. Strong words from Jesus! Everyone has a backstory and when people are in the public eye, the people who know their story better than others are inclined to judge that person by their background story. Where were they brought up? What do their parents do? What kind of school did they go to? Are they one of us, or are they to be lumped together with the kind of people we look down on or cannot relate to?
So we see in Mark’s gospel how Jesus did not escape that kind of scrutiny and judgement. People heard his teaching and marvelled at it, but then, when he was on his own territory, he knew that people were judging him by his background. It made them less open to what he was actually saying and so they found it easier to dismiss, rather than to be challenged or inspired by his words. In fact the word used in the original Greek version is the one from which we get the English word “scandalised”. By what authority did Jesus say all these things, no matter how impressive those things might have been?
This is the time of year when people often are ordained as priest or deacon. It takes me back to the beginning, especially with this year being my silver jubilee of ordination as priest. I think it can be easier in some ways preaching to people who do not know you well than it can in front of family and people who have known you since you were knee-high to a grasshopper. After all, they know what you are really like! It can be harder to listen to someone without prejudice when we think we already know all about them.
So Jesus knew that it would not be fruitful to remain in his home district and felt the call to go and minster elsewhere. The work he was doing needed a faithful and open response, but if this was lacking, then little would change. What these people did not realise was that they were not just pushing away a human being, but they were also keeping God out of their lives. They had the chance to be healed and forgiven and to discover new life, but it was all lost on them because of their hardness of heart.
We see something similar with the prophet Ezekiel, who was sent by God to an obstinate people. God’s message was that prophecy should not be silent, whether or not the people were willing to listen. Probably there would be at least a small minority who would, much the same as with Jesus. Then there is St Paul, who speaks about the “thorn in the flesh”. Although we don’t know exactly what he meant by that, it seems likely that it would have been the opposition from other people, especially in Antioch. On the plus side, the criticism and attacks from others seemed to prevent any temptation to become too proud. It also helped Paul to rely not just on his own abilities, but above all on the strength of God.
It is that power of God working through human life that brings change and assures us that when our own strength fails, we are upheld by something much greater. People will always find reasons not to listen to those who challenge their fixed ideas. It can also be true that the Bible can be used to back up people’s personal or political standpoints. But its real message will not be silenced and those who build their lives on the teachings of Christ will always find consolation in God, no matter how many others might reject the message.
Thank God that the gospel message is not limited by people’s backgrounds. Anyone who lives by it and who allows it to shape their lives and their message to others, will find themselves closer to God. What the world rejects, the love of God embraces.