Mark 6: 1–6.
It is really sad to note the attitude of Jesus’ home town to their suddenly famous neighbor. On the surface, it is the usual story of how familiarity can breed contempt. They know how “ordinary” Jesus has been and they cannot allow him now to represent a world that is so much larger than their own little town. This is a strange mixture of pride and envy, with the latter seeming to take hold at Nazareth.
The tragic consequence of their refusal to abandon their provincial narrowness is that Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty deeds there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” Jesus could not work more miracles there because they would not permit it! They could not open themselves to a world beyond their own safe little village. Of course, this new world that Jesus has entered is not just the world beyond Nazareth; it is the world beyond this world!
Authentic faith always expands our horizons and enriches our imagination so that we can see and yearn for that transcendent, divine world that God has planned for us. Real faith enables us to be born into a world of wonder and hope and endless possibilities. It is always tragic when we refuse to let go of our safe, little “Nazareth” and thus lose the real world of God’s kingdom.
If we ever needed proof that Jesus was a real human being and grew up as an ordinary child it would be provided by today’s gospel passage. In fact, it was his very ordinariness that scandalized his neighbors and prevented them from allowing him to be their Messiah and Savior.
However, we are dealing here with something far more dangerous than a small-town mentality. These people of Nazareth represent all of us when we want to make ourselves the measure of everything. We fear the uncontrollable world where God’s gifts are to be found, and so we tend to reject anything that we cannot understand and control. We forget that all the really important things in life, such as love and happiness and life itself, are ultimately gifts to be received, not problems to be discussed and mastered. Faith gives us the courage to trust the world of God’s promises and to open ourselves to these wonderful and uncontrollable realities.
When we are afraid to take such a risk, we have no choice but to defend our tiny territory and to deny everything that lies beyond it. Faith, when it is truly operative in our lives, puts us in touch with God’s love and thus allows us to share the experience of Jesus who left Nazareth in order to embrace the whole world. It is the experience of God’s love, discovered in the gift of our heavenly Father, that allows us to take the risk that Jesus took … and that leads us with him, through trials and adversities, to the only world that really matters.
This “ordinary” world of ours is full of God’s presence and God’s promise. We need only to open our eyes. St. Paul knew this, for he wrote, “God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1: 27). God can work wonders through us, just as we are, provided we trust in his love and power.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.