Once upon a time, an entertainment company, while organizing a Christmas holiday program signs a contract with a very popular musician to feature in the three-day event. When people learned that the popular musician would be live, tickets sold out. However, a day before the event, the popular musician became very sick and was rushed to the emergency room. It was very late to cancel the contract, and he sends a message to the company regretting his inability to attend but recommends another musician who was not popular with the people.
The news was not suitable for both the organizers and the people who bought tickets. Some people decided not to attend the event following the report of the inability of the popular musician to attend. Fast forwarding into the event, the performance of the unpopular musician takes everyone by storm. As the show progresses, people no longer felt the absence of the popular musician as the stand-in musician takes the event to an entirely new level.
During an interview session with journalists towards the end of the event, the chief director of the entertainment company among other things relates that his greatest learning in the entire process is that popularity does not make a good musician. Hence you don’t need to be popular to be good at what you do. We can apply this instance in the ministry of the prophet; popularity does not make the real prophet.
The liturgy of the word today focuses on the identity and ministry of the prophet. In the First Reading (Ezekiel 2:2-5), the prophet recalls his mission to speak to the people about their rebellion against God so that they would know that a prophet exists among them. In the Second Reading (2 Cor. 12:7-10), St. Paul tells us about the personal weaknesses and limitations of the prophet which for him serves to checkmate the propensity to self-exaltation (boasting). In the Gospel Reading (Mark 6:1-6), we hear the story of the rejection of the greatest prophet, our Lord Jesus Christ, during his first pastoral visit to his hometown, Nazareth.
The disaffection and repudiation that trailed the visit of Jesus Christ to Nazareth have a lot to do with the popularity clause. Simply put, he received rejection because he was not popular among his people as a prophet. The Nazarenes did not see him study under any of known rabbis nor did he enroll in any of the rabbinical schools. Furthermore, his father was a carpenter, and his mother was a simple folk in the village. There was nothing spectacular about his relations either, and the people retained the idea that nothing good could come out of Nazareth (John 1:46). Should we blame the Nazarenes for rejecting Jesus Christ? One could imagine that they were acting within the limits of their knowledge and the word of God says that my people perish for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).
In retrospect, Jesus Christ left Nazareth for the desert where he spends forty days in fasting and prayers. He goes as a carpenter; he goes as the son of a humble woman called Mary. He goes as a common Nazarene who was very much like other folks. After the baptism of John and the desert encounter, Jesus comes to Nazareth no longer as a mere citizen of the town, but as the Messiah of the people. He comes to the familiar ground with unfamiliar packages. Jesus comes not as a wood carpenter, but as a spiritual carpenter; he did not come to repair broken tables, chairs, and farm implements, but the broken lives of the people. He comes as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel in the First Reading (2:2-5) about a prophet amid the rebellious people. He comes not only as Jesus but also as the Christ (the anointed one). Our Lord Jesus Christ visited not merely as a member of the community but as its master, teacher, Lord, and savior.
Reflecting on the episode at Nazareth, we could derive lessons from the following high points:
- Familiarity is a faith killer
The phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” is a derivation from the Book of Proverbs (25:17), which says that constant visits to a neighbor’s house could bring weariness and hatred. Familiarity means to have a kind of household closeness to someone or something. The more familiar we get, the more comfortable we become, and that could weaken our active engagement.
The Nazarenes could not connect to the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ because they were familiar with his family background and could not see anything prophetic about the son of the carpenter. Consequently, they could not uphold him in faith. Often, we repeat the mistakes of the Nazarenes in our relationship with God. Does your daily (frequent) encounter with the Lord in the Holy Eucharist facilitate or diminish your faith in His real presence in the sacrament? Do we become so familiar with the priests of God that we lose confidence in the “prophet” in them?
- Rejection of Christ is the rejection of his blessings
The most pathetic aspect of the Gospel narrative today is the rejection of Jesus Christ by his people. In fact, the text says that they took offense at him. Luke’s (4:16-30) account of the same visit tells us about a more aggressive attempt to kill Jesus Christ, but he eluded them.
The Nazarene rejected Jesus Christ because he was not a famous prophet among them. They refused him because of their familiarity with his background. They rejected him because they could not stand the truth. It could have been a bitter experience for our Lord as he exclaims, “a prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”
The consequence of the rejection of Christ is that he was not able to perform ANY MIGHTY DEED there apart from curing a few sick people. Here we learn that our rejection can limit God’s mighty deed in our lives. We need to accept him in faith before the Lord can function effectively in our lives. Do you receive or reject the Lord at those critical moments in your life? Would the Lord today marvel at your faith or lack of faith like the Nazarenes?
- Going forward
God is not interested in how popular or unpopular a prophet is. What is essential in our acceptance of the message of the prophet in faith and trust in God not in the prophet. Often we seek God in distant places where we think that popularity brings miracles when we can find around us. The central message of today is the call for us to undo the deeds of the Nazarenes by not allowing the privilege of “God with us” to diminish our reverence, faith, and acceptance of him so that he can perform mighty deeds in our lives.
May the grace of God abide with us as we place all our hope in Him. Have a blessed Sunday and an awesome week ahead.