Feb 4, 2015

Wednesday Reflection - "Who does he think he is?"

Mk 6: 1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Those who challenge the status quo are often seen in two ways.  Either they are innovative, creative and visionary or they are rebellious and a danger to the familiar, the comfortable and the secure. Those who bring new ideas are seen as heroic or a threat.  They are told to proceed carefully with deliberate focus and attention or it is feared they will create chaos. In the end it may all be perception rather than fact which sadly determines the truth.  To “think outside the box” strains courage and trust.  To move forward with no clear plan both excites and frightens.

So, the same, it seems, was for Jesus, at least for those who perceived his radical challenge to the status quo. Again it is a synagogue – this place of hearing, reflecting, song, prayer, worship and discussion.  Not meant as a place of division or dissension among the faithful. Not a place to point and accuse and disturb. Yet, astonishment ruled this day. As Jesus taught, he surprised, he amazed, he bewildered, he shocked and he disturbed the status quo.  “Where did this man get all this?” wonders the crowd. 

In an animated discussion of raised voices alive with wonder and anger, Jesus has touched a chord deep within hearts and minds.  He rails against the status quo – the myopic views, the self-righteous comments, the narrow expectations of his own people – his own people who knew his family!  Not even they could accept his “wisdom” or his “mighty deeds.”  In essence they are saying, as we may remark in our own sarcasm at times about others: “Who does he think he is?”  And so they were deeply offended by this upstart and arrogant tradesman, one much like them, who now pretends to be the wise teacher.  It is too much for them and they cannot stomach to think of the possibilities. How dare he pretend! It is tragic.

I wonder what Jesus felt?  How did he handle these accusations, these judgments, these false labels and this rejection?  It was the beginning of his first passion.  To be loved on the one hand and then to be thrown out on the other is to suffer a wound of the heart.

Jesus, now wounded, moves away.  He does not give in to self-pity nor does he return to explain and reframe his teaching in a more acceptable manner.  He moves on curing few not because he didn’t feel compassion from his gut for their pain for he shared in that but because of their “lack of faith.”  How much that must have wounded him. His first small passion began.

Yet, a mission must carry forward. Not long before, in water, his Father had spoken and the Spirit compelled him. The mission to embrace surrounded by flawed, narrow minded and sinful humanity he aches to stretch the vision and hope of all who would listen and trust. He leaves this scene only to begin once again a new and fresh journey fraught with controversy and courage; with healing and mercy; with good news and life; towards judgment and rejection. Yet the truth we face about ourselves is lightened by the fire of his charity for it is a flame that is never extinguished only burns brighter the closer we follow him.

Be not afraid.