Mark reports that Jesus has come back to his hometown, Nazareth, for the first time since beginning his public ministry.
Nazareth was a small town, comprising no more than 200 people. So when Jesus went to the synagogue to teach it was no surprise that the villagers recognized their own Jesus.
At first, they are astounded by Jesus’ wisdom and authority. Yet precisely because they knew Jesus to be one of the “fellas,” they reject the authenticity of his teaching and Jesus, himself.
Despite the resonance of Jesus’ teaching in their hearts and minds, a man with such wisdom and authority should appear more powerful and prestigious than this common, familiar carpenter. For them, it is not possible that a simpleton like Jesus could articulate such wisdom.
In the end, they doubted to such a point that Jesus was amazed and marveled at their lack of faith.
So what do we make of their response?
Even though we don’t see and hear Jesus the same way that the Nazarenes saw and heard him, we, nonetheless, hear his voice through the sacred Scriptures, magisterium (church teaching), bishops and, according to John 18:37 — every time we hear truth, we hear his voice.
Sorting messenger from truth
Despite the truth of things, we, like the Nazarenes, sometimes cannot perceive the truth because the speaker or teacher doesn’t appeal to us. This lack of appeal can arise from petty things like the teacher’s choice of adverbs or soda preference. Or it can arise from serious things like sin.
Unlike Jesus, those who teach the truth don’t correspondingly embody it the way they ought, and this can lead us to reject altogether the message itself. I hope that we recognize the fallacy in this line of thinking and behaving.
As Catholics, we are concerned with the truth of things, and, if a claim is indeed true, then we should believe it. But sometimes it is easier to discredit the teaching because the teacher does not meet our standards.
So what does all this mean?
I think that as we listen to homilies and talks, as we learn more about the life of faith, sacraments, prayer and morality, we should allow the truth of our church’s teaching to reach us, even when we don’t like the teacher.
It is too easy to discredit a teaching on fasting because the teacher doesn’t appear to be someone who fasts. The teacher must always live what he or she teaches, but that is not our responsibility.
For us listeners and lovers of the truth, let us pattern our way of believing and living based on what is true in itself, rather than how the teacher appears to us. For it is entirely possible that, like the Nazarenes, we could fail to see that God and the Savior of the World are speaking directly to us.
Deacon Andrew Brinkman is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His home parish, along with his teaching parish, is St. Stephen in Minneapolis.
Sunday, July 8
14th Sunday in ordinary time
- Ezekiel 2:2-5
- 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
- Mark 6:1-6a
Recall a time that you listened to a Gospel message from someone who didn’t seem to be living that message. How did you respond?