Why was Jesus rejected?
In this wonderful homily for 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Father Hanly sheds light on why it was that Jesus was rejected in his home town.
First Reading: Ezekiel 2:2-5
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 123:1-2, 2, 3-4
Second Reading: Second Corinthians 12:7-10
Gospel: Mark 6:1-6
Last Sunday, you remember, we had that very lovely gospel of Jesus healing the little girl. Jesus heals. And the father who was full of grief now turns to joy and happiness and the family is made whole again. And the little daughter, near death, Jesus brings her back to a new life and new love.
It was a very touching gospel for all of us and there was a little thing at the end which was very nice: everybody was oohing and aahing about Jesus doing these wonders and signs, but Jesus himself said to them, “It’s time to feed her.” Because she was sick many days and she had no food. And it was Jesus who decided that, first things first, feed the child. Which is very touching.
Today we have a different gospel. It’s a little more puzzling. It’s a little bit unhappy. In fact, it’s downright impossible to really understand it.
Because today we have a radical change when Jesus turns to his own home in Nazareth.
Now, Nazareth is his home. Nazareth is where he was, not born, that was in Bethlehem, but he was raised in Nazareth, and he knew everyone there, and he was, to them all, a carpenter’s son.
But now, he has gone off to become a preacher and a teacher. And some months pass and he decides that now as he’s in the area he will visit his home town and they invite him to speak in the synagogue. And, of course, they bring in the big book and they lay it down and Jesus begins to read. And he begins also to preach and to teach them.
And while they’re listening, they have two feelings. The first one is: how did this young carpenter’s son, in this little village, how did he get such an incredible wisdom. And it seems that he was touching their hearts for the first time.
And this was a different Jesus. This was a Jesus that was going to make demands. And this is a Jesus who we might not be able to control like we could control him when he was a little boy, and we all knew him and we knew his father and we knew his mother and we knew everything. And they began to talk themselves into doubting about Jesus. Very sad.
And so Jesus, because he couldn’t perform any miracles, he did a few healings. And after having done a few healings, what he did was, he went on to another place.
It’s a puzzling kind of a … It’s very puzzling because, at first, of course, the people, the hometown crowd, they’re all rooting for their son, their relative, and he’s making out good and he’s got a big name and all of that. So they all cheer and yell and jump up and down and invite him home and they let him read.
And then, all of a sudden, they begin to realize he’s no different from they are. Think of that. They realize he’s no different from they are. They saw him grow up, they saw him grow into a crying baby and then a pain in the neck teenager or whatever it was. And they began to say, “Oh (inaudible) that he is the Messiah or anything like it.
And so it comes upon him that he has to leave the place. But before he leaves, they begin to get angry at him. They begin to feel that, “Well, if he’s such a smart guy, how come he doesn’t do his family good and how come he doesn’t bring us ahead in the world,” all these thoughts that run through a group of people that have known somebody who made good, we all make good, blah, blah, blah, blah. It’s an ordinary scene in an ordinary time in an ordinary situation and we can understand.
And Jesus is absolutely stunned by this reaction. Because Jesus came to do something different, right? Jesus didn’t come to make the family better, make the family richer, make everybody believe that if you work hard and work long and then you become a success and you follow that route… Jesus was going to offer them something that was even much, much, much more difficult to swallow.
He was going to tell them, “The old ways are not good enough: not good enough, not for God, but not good enough for you. You’ve been kind of putting your nose into things, worrying about things, becoming successful or whatever it is that drives you. And it’s all not what I came for.” And then, of course, he will tell them what he came for. And when he tells them what he came for, they get very angry at him. In fact they’re going to throw him off the little cliff at the end of this village. But Jesus walks away.
I think the one thing that I’d like to maybe point out. What Mark, see Mark’s voice is in all this, it’s not Jesus, although Jesus might provide the action and the language, but Mark has got it all figured out. And he deliberately puts it in this part of the gospel, just when Jesus has become a success, he begins to realize, and he wants everybody to realize, that Jesus was failure. You must remember that.
Jesus was a failure. He was a failure at being born. He was born in a rubbish heap in a beat-up old stable. He had to run away with his father and mother all the way to Egypt because they were out to kill them. They had no peace, they had no money, they had nothing. They had to wait and wait, and people would help them out, and then they came back and they went up to Nazareth and the carpenter began to work again but the carpenter’ trade wasn’t much.
And all this time they’re carrying this secret in their hearts because they believe that this is the Messiah, the Son of God.
Anyhow, it’s beginning to dawn on Mark that what he has to do is to tell these stories, the negative stories, to tell these stories so that you might know that Jesus came for a very specific purpose. He was the messenger of God to announce a whole new world. And he was going to do it by being not strong and mighty, but by being poor and weak. It is the weakness of God that is stronger than the strength of men.
And so it is that Jesus begins, in a way, his rejection, in the place that he grew up. He was rejected there and he went on.
I’m sure what passed through their minds was they would say, “Why were we making such a fuss over him? He’s just like us.” We say that all the time, “He’s just one of us, just like us. Got a few little things that he’s pretty good for, maybe he speaks well, he gives nice talks and stuff like that, but he’s just one of us.”
And Jesus lets them know, not just by word, but by his presence, that he’s doing the opposite. He has come that they may be one like him because he is the Son of God. They must make his eyes their eyes, his heart their heart, his way their way, and, of course, this is very, very hard for people who are used to all the old ways.
I have written here what Jesus was saying was, “I have become one with you, not to be like you, but for you to be one like me.” And for this he was rejected by his own friends and relatives.
Now, I’m going to talk and tell you, just as a finale here, a little story. You’ve all heard of the philosopher, he died in 1900s though, you must have learned him in school, Friedrich Nietzsche: Nietzsche the great philosopher, Nietzsche who everybody accused of being an atheist, Nietzsche who was kind of a fiery strong opinionated one at a time when everything was in turmoil. Now, this is at the end of the 1800s, and Nietzsche was a great controversial teacher. And Nietzsche had a very, very difficult life because he had mental illness along with his brilliance, and he was slowly going out of his mind, you see. And one of his stories I’d like to tell you because I think it’s very appropriate.
When everybody was complaining to Nietzsche, you know, “Why don’t you live like other people? Why aren’t you like other people? Why don’t you teach like other people?” and on and on, Nietzsche would just tell this one story and the story goes like this.
There was in Germany, in a kind of a farming section, there was a little village. And the village was full of ordinary little working class people doing their daily tasks and raising children. And at night they would all come out and they would all sit around and they’d discuss. And they talked about everything: the gossip and the bad news and the good news and this and that and who was sick and who was a pain in the neck and who they’d like to get out of that village, and blah, blah, just like it was a little village, you see. And it’s very important to them but if anybody else went into that village nobody would care about it.
Well, someone did come into that village. One night they were all sitting around chatting and sharing all these gossipy stories and everything, and there appears at the corner of the village a naked man, totally naked. And he’s got fire in his eyes and he hasn’t combed his hair for maybe ten, twenty or thirty years. And he runs into the village and he starts screaming at the top of his voice. “God is dead! God is dead!”
And the people at first are really frightened, you see. And then they begin to see that, well, he’s harmless, he doesn’t have anything because he’s got no clothes on. So what happens then is they begin to smile, and then they begin to laugh, you know because he’s kind of funny.
So he’s running all around the water pool in the centre of the village. And he’s running around and he jumps into the water and he jumps up on top of the landing and he raises his hand and he says, “God is dead and you have killed him.”
Think of that one now, the people sitting there. “God is dead and you have killed him.” That’s not atheism. That’s means we’ve taken a God, a good God, a true God, a wonderful God, and we’ve made Him something that makes the village run better, or that makes everybody feel safer or not so worried as…
What Jesus was preaching, remember, Jesus came and he said, “I have come to make a new world. I have come to light fire on the earth and I cannot leave it till it is ignited.”
That’s the end of the story. Go home and think about this, though. It’s a very powerful story. Many, many people roam around the world and they don’t know anything about anything.
Are these villagers terrible people? No. Are they angry people? No, they’re quite happy people. Well, what’s wrong with these villagers? And I’ll tell you what’s wrong. This is what Nietzsche wants you to remember.
Think of the scene now: this poor man is out of his mind, screaming and yelling, he’s naked, he has nothing. If one of them in the village, just one of them, went over to the man and put their arms around him and said, “Sir, come to my house and I will feed you,” that would be the difference between the rule of Jesus and the rule of the village.
And that is what Jesus was up against when he went to that little village. He was going to take away the things that they felt they couldn’t live without.
And what couldn’t they live without? It wasn’t love. They could live without love. It wasn’t caring for each other. They could live without that. What couldn’t they live without? They couldn’t live without giving their whole lives, giving every ounce of their person, not to just one or two people, but to make that village a place, a village that would be a house of God, and that little naked men could be received and brought in and cared for and loved.
And what would that do? That would make these people the kind of people that Jesus had in mind when he came into this world and said, “I have come not for me to imitate you, but for you to imitate me. And if you come with me, leave everything behind and come with me, then we will fashion the world that everybody dreams of, a world of peace and love and caring, and where little naked men do not scream out anymore, “Where is God? God is dead.” They will say, “In this village, God is everywhere.”
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Father Hanly’s homily for 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, was delivered on 8th July 2012.
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