14TH SUNDAY in ORDINARY TIME, CYCLE B
Ezekiel 2: 2-5 + Psalm 123: 1-4 + 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 + Mark 6: 1-6
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: Sunday, July 4, 2021
The Gospel passages from Mark the past two Sundays and today have helped us reflect on the meaning of “faith.”
We have seen how in these accounts that faith equals trust,
that to believe means to trust in Jesus.
The disciples in that sinking boat, swamped by fear, are chided by Jesus
for their “little faith”—they struggle to trust completely in Jesus
and to entrust their lives totally to his care.
The woman whose body will not stop bleeding and the father whose daughter dies
both entrust themselves to Jesus, trusting that he has the power to heal a chronic illness as well as the power to raise a child from death.
Today, at the other end of the spectrum, are the people of Jesus’ hometown.
The evangelist Mark correctly diagnoses the problem with the people of Nazareth—
their problem is unbelief, which basically means they distrust Jesus.
The hometown folks are hard of face and obstinate of heart.
They are arrogant and full of contempt for Jesus, thinking they know him,
because they knew him when he was a kid and knew him as a handyman.
The people of Nazareth think Jesus is full of himself, but that is a projection—for they are so full of themselves they cannot receive Jesus nor trust in him nor his message.
The power of this unbelief, of this mistrust of Jesus and trusting only
in their long-held assumptions about him, is that Jesus is not able to work
any mighty deed there. Wow!
Notice in this Gospel passage that the people never address Jesus directly.
They never enter into conversation with him, they never call him by his name-
they only make assumptions.
They know things about Jesus, like the names of his family members, but they
do not know Jesus because they refuse to do what is most human and most vulnerable:
to enter into a conversation with him, to ask questions and seek to understand.
Instead of talking to him, they talk about him.
Instead of treating him with human dignity as someone with a name
who has the potential to change and grow, they put him in a box.
They assume so much.
I will not break down that word, “assume” in this public setting,
but let’s just say that if I assume something about you I make a fool out of you and me.
One of the reasons that all the prophets in the Old Testament invite their hearers
to repentance is because repentance simply means the willingness
to rethink one’s assumptions.
The prophet straddling the Old and the New, John the Baptist, invites the people
into repentance, to change the way they think, so they can receive someone
completely NEW, who shatters their assumptions about God and God’s ways—Jesus.
Jesus also invites people to repentance, to examine their assumptions about God
and other people in order to take on his mindset.
The essence of not having faith, of distrust, is that you believe or trust your current assumptions and opinions so much that you distrust anything new that comes your way.
Psychologists call this “confirmation bias.”
They tell us that our brains are wired to accept ideas that confirm what we already think, and to reject anything that challenges our assumptions.
Those who make tons of money off the Internet understand confirmation bias,
which is why the algorithms which run Facebook take us to sites and groups
which confirm what we already think.
Without even knowing it, we become a prisoner of our own assumptions.
The result–we never come to know others who are different from us.
That’s why it is so easy today to demonize and discard those who think differently
than we do.
In the gospels, the opposite of confirmation bias is repentance.
The word literally means to “think again” or “to change your mind.”
Trust enables us to rethink our assumptions, to see the world and others in a new way.
Jesus constantly is saying, “Have faith” because he is calling others to trust in Him.
As the Son of God in human flesh, he sees things that we do not
and invites us to this new way of seeing.
As the Wisdom of God fully human, he wants us to break free of our confirmation bias.
The invitation he extends daily to us is to be his disciple,
a word which literally means “to sit at the feet of the Master,”
so we might learn how to see others as he does
and love others as he does.
But the journey of discipleship is painful because we have to go through the death,
the letting go, of assumptions that sometimes have to be rooted out of our hearts.
What Jesus is about is heart surgery, for when we change the way we think,
then our hearts are transformed as well.
We are not only daily being called to repentance, but also we are called to be prophetic.
By our baptism, when we put on Christ, we were given a part in His prophetic ministry.
As it was with Jesus, so we too can expect rejection as we live out the Gospel.
He experienced rejection and so will we.
Whenever we speak out defending the dignity of human life,
whether that be against abortion or against capital punishment or against racism,
we risk rejection.
Whenever we bring to light the assumptions that people live by
which are not in accord with the teachings of Jesus, we can expect to be rejected.
As it was with Jesus, so it will be with us his disciples.
But the Scriptures today not only challenge us to persevere in our prophetic call
in the face of rejection, but also challenge us to examine when we have rejected others.
We are invited to think about the times we have caused this pain by rejecting
our brothers and sisters who opinions and ideas, looks and behavior
are not in accord with our own.
But we are also invited by this Gospel to look carefully at how easily
we reject others who come to our borders,
do not speak our language, or have an accent.
We have to wonder if this is not in some very real way a rejection of the very One
who has come for us, given us so much, and asked so little.
Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi