Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Adam Royal
July 4, 2021
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” These words of Jesus are probably proverbial. That is, they belong to the simple folk wisdom that is passed around the culture and handed on through the ages; something like, “The early bird gets the worm.” The simplicity and commonness of these words belie a hidden depth. Jesus’ words cut to the heart and should cause to rethink our lives and especially our interactions with one another.
When the Lord was teaching in the synagogue of his hometown, he did not receive a warm welcome, quite the opposite. They rejected Jesus. Our lectionary says the people “took offense at him.” “Took offense” does not fully capture what happened. That phrase translates the word σκανδαλἰζω, which means to cause to sin, which is to say, to create a scandal in the authentic sense. Mark’s Gospel is telling us that the teachings of Jesus so repulsed the people that they not only rejected him but began to sin because of him. It is as if they heard what he said and then went about doing the opposite to spite him. This response should shock and appall us. Jesus tells us the summation of all the law and the prophets is to love God and love your neighbor. What community, which undoubtedly claims to seek God and happiness, could reject that teaching? What community could be so offended by those words that they would forsake Jesus?
We could. We have. We are the community that has cast Jesus out of its midst and chosen sin instead. Jesus is present in every single person on Earth. If we want to see the face of God, then we only need to look around us, and if we look around, we will see that many faces are missing. Every couple of months, I speak with someone who believes they are not welcome here. These people have spent years of their lives away from the parish afraid they were not allowed to return because of a sinful past, an argument with someone, or any of a dozen other reasons. They fear that no-one can forgive them, that no-one is willing to show them compassion and welcome them back. They aren’t angry at the Catholic Church universally or her teachings. All they want is a compassionate and merciful community, and they have not found it.
“A prophet is not without honor except…in his own house.” This parish is God’s house, but we have dishonored him in the strangers among us. Hearing his words and receiving his body and blood every week we have become complacent. Our hearts have hardened, and we no longer allow his grace to move us to love. This must change. Everyone who desires the mercy of God should find a home here, and it is our responsibility, driven by the grace of God, to make that happen.
I do not know what all must change, what new ways we need to welcome others. I do know that words will not suffice. We cannot merely say people are welcome and that we are forgiving, we must demonstrate it. Look around you and if you see a new face, introduce yourself; try to form a real relationship with that person or family. If you see week after week that a familiar face is missing, give them a call or go and visit them and offer support. We must be the compassionate community Jesus established.
Most importantly, we all need to look into our hearts and ask the Holy Spirit how we can become the people we were created to be.