Last Sunday when we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, we reflected on how that whole event was recorded in the Gospel of Mark and shared with Mark's community in order to help them -- people who knew Jesus so well, who knew Jesus as one of themselves -- to see Jesus as indeed the Son of God. Today's scripture from John's Gospel written for the community of John's disciples does something of the same thing.
The Peace Pulpit
A few Sundays ago, perhaps you remember, we had the Gospel lesson about Jesus preaching in his hometown of Nazareth, and afterwards he was rejected. His own family, three of his brothers are mentioned by name, and his neighbors would say things like, "Well who is this? Who does he think he is? Isn't he just the carpenter's son?"
The temptation of course on a day like this is to say we should skip the homily and just go on with the Mass, but as I suggested before, just pretend you are sitting on the shore of the lake and there is a nice breeze coming, because it's really important to try to listen deeply today to God's Word. To start with, I'm asking you a question. Do you think that that little boy was the only one among those 5,000 people who had some bread in his pocket? What do you think? He would be the only one? Well, think about it, and I'll come back to it in a minute, but before, we really need to try to understand what is happening in this Gospel lesson.
I'm sure that most of us have been following what has been going on in the Middle East during these past days. If you followed on television at all, you've seen the rockets going into Haifa, other places in Israel, killing people. But even more you've seen the bombing and the disastrous results of that. Thousands of people, mostly civilians, of course, many, many children killed, and hundreds of thousands having to flee their homes, they're on the road, without food, without water, without medicine. It's one of the most horrific situations that we've seen in the world in a long time. It's all there right in front of us.
Last Sunday we reflected on Jesus in a role that we don’t often give to Jesus in our reverence and worship of him -- Jesus as a prophet; Jesus as one who speaks on behalf of God and proclaims God’s Word. And as we reflected on Jesus as prophet, we were especially drawn to reflect on how he, as a prophet, was rejected.
The Gospel lesson this morning is taken from
a part of Mark’s Gospel that is describing the beginning of the public
life of Jesus. And as we heard, he experienced something new today. He was
rejected. Even despised. And what must have hurt most of all, is that it
was from his own neighbors, people he’d grown up with, from his own
family. He was rejected because he began to carry out the role that God
had called him to carry out: the role of a prophet.
Last Sunday, at the end of the Gospel reading, we were left with the disciples’ question: “Who is this who has come into the world?” I hope we have reflected on that during this week. Who is this Jesus? Who? Of course, last week they had come to the conclusion “this is God.” And they were in awe and trembling because, as Mark makes so clear, Jesus had power over the winds, over the water, over the chaos, just as in the beginning of the scriptures where it’s revealed to us how God, the creator, brings order out of chaos, calms the waters, builds the earth.
The Gospel passage ends with a very
important question: Who can this be that the wind and the sea obey him? It
was a question that Mark, the Gospel writer, wanted the community of his
day to reflect on and, of course, it’s a question for all of us to reflect
on also. Often we think of the miracle stories in the Gospel as simply
that, miracle stories, stories of wondrous things that Jesus could do. And
sometimes we use them to prove that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, what
these miracle accounts are, and this one certainly is, are a way of
teaching. Mark is trying to teach his community, and to teach us, that we
must reflect deeply on who Jesus really is. The wind and the sea obey
During this past week, as some of you may
know, the Catholic bishops of the United States gathered for our
semi-annual meeting. One of the topics on the agenda was a report from the
committee on that very divisive question that arose almost two years ago
during the election about denying Holy Communion to people, determining
that some people are not worthy to come forward and accept the Body and
Blood of Jesus. Thankfully, the report came to a moderate conclusion, and
there is going to be a very real attempt that we won’t be trying to
exclude people from coming forward to receive the Eucharist.
A few Sundays ago I told an anecdote at the beginning of my
ttreflection that Im going to repeat today because I think its
ttappropriate for our reflections on the scripture lessons this morning. Some of
ttyou will remember the story about the little boy in the Confirmation class in
ttwhich all of the children were urged to pick a certain part of scripture to
ttmemorize and when the bishop came to Confirmation he might ask them to get up
ttand recite whatever they had chosen. When the bishop came, he did exactly that,
ttand this youngster was very enthusiastic and raised his hand right away. The
ttbishop called on him, and this youngster said, I memorized Psalm
tt23. Then he began to recite it. The Lord is my shepherd, there is
ttnothing I shall want. And he stopped, totally blanked, couldnt
ttthink of another word. But then he blurted out, And thats all I
ttneed to know. [Congregation laughs] And thats what everybody in
ttchurch did, they smiled and agreed, thats all we need to know.