Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - July 4, 2021
On the Fourteenth Sunday of the Year, the Scriptures make it clear that God calls us to hear, live, and proclaim His Word, even in less-than-ideal conditions. To live as the Lord has taught us and to proclaim the Gospel requires great courage and trust in God’s grace.
For the past two weeks, the Gospel of Mark has presented us with the powerful and triumphant actions of Jesus as he stills the storm and forces of nature and brings healing and peace to those afflicted with a chronic and deadly illness. This week, by contrast, we hear about the misunderstanding and rejection of his fellow townspeople in “his native place.” The hometown folks in Nazareth had heard of Jesus’ powerful and miraculous deeds, but what they heard and what they thought they knew about Jesus only prompted them to “take offense at him.” They refused to believe or accept him. As a result, the Gospel reports that Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by his laying his hands on them.”
Interestingly, the lack of faith and acceptance hindered but did not totally stop God’s presence and healing from being experienced. Faith and acceptance of Jesus’ proclamation of God’s Kingdom and his call to “believe in the gospel” (see Mark 1:14-15) can give us, both as individuals and as faith communities, a much fuller experience of God’s powerful work in and through his Son. Moreover, this account of our Lord’s visit to his hometown is yet another call to discipleship.
The prophets of old and all those called to proclaim God’s Word know the difficulty of rejection and misunderstanding. All of them know that it is important to stay focused on God’s presence in their lives and to trust in God’s help and support through it all. The readings today testify to the fact that the prophets who were called and sent by God and the disciples who were close in time and space to Jesus were not exempt from the difficulties of human life. Misunderstanding, rejection, and weakness are part of life for any disciple.
So, for instance, the First Reading tells us that God’s spirit entered Ezekiel and gave him the power to fulfill his vocation. The Lord also told the prophet that he would be proclaiming God’s Word to a rebellious and obstinate people, and whether they paid attention or rejected the Word, they would “know that a prophet had been among them.”
In the Second Reading, Saint Paul goes so far as to say that he is content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; ... “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Relying on God’s grace, Paul’s courage in the face of weakness is an example of discipleship that recognizes the one who is our savior, the one who gave his life for us on the cross and rose from the dead.
In the Gospel, the suspicion and rejection experienced by Jesus in his hometown preview the reaction that will bring him to the cross. We want to note that disbelief and rejection do not stop our Lord from preaching, teaching, and acting powerfully. Even in the situation of unbelief, God’s power still comes forth from the rejected Jesus. Hearing Mark’s account of Jesus’ rejection in his home town we find not only a preview of the cross but also a preview of the resurrection. This is the power of Christ that St. Paul experienced in his weakness. This is the power of Christ that we pray for in our own weakness.
Today, we pray that we always be open to the presence and power of Christ in the midst of our lives, in our efforts to follow him, and especially in the moments when we experience rejection and weakness. In following Christ, may we never hesitate to help others experience his presence and power in their lives. With St. Paul, may we all hear our Lord say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”