Jesus goes home and doesn’t do very well.
Ezekiel was called by God to be a prophet, to proclaim God’s word, but the people were hard of face and obstinate of heart. He didn’t do very well either.
It seems as if the conventional wisdom of the definition of an expert is “someone who lives 50 miles away and carries a briefcase.” Somehow, we’re unable to recognize the “experts” who live in our midst.
On the road, Jesus was a hit.
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus leaves Nazareth and is baptized by John in the Jordan. Then, defeating the devil after 40 days in the desert, he begins his public ministry on the road.
Jesus first travels to Capernaum, a small fishing village on the Sea of Galilee, where he preaches in the synagogue and the people are astonished, “for he taught them as one having authority.”
Jesus then travels across the Sea of Galilee, preaching and proclaiming, performing miracles and healing, and his fame quickly spreads. Many people gather around him until the crowds are so great, that when a woman touches his cloak, he cannot even identify who, among the many, has touched him.
From one shore of the Sea to the next, people came to believe because of what they heard and what they saw.
Jesus now returns home and attends the synagogue of his childhood. At first, the town’s folks were amazed. They even recognized his wisdom and his mighty deeds.
But then something changes. The tone of their questions moved from truly seeking to understand, to rhetorical questions that seem destined to lead to a foregone conclusion.
You can almost hear them thinking, “Wait a minute. We know this guy. We grew up with him. He’s Mary’s son. It’s just Jesus, the carpenter.”
As I was praying about this gospel and our readings today, I had to ask myself, “What keeps me from listening with an open mind and an open heart to the wisdom that God wants to share with me, in and through others?”
It didn’t take me long to answer that question. It is pride and self-importance. It is also just the opposite: lack of self-confidence and comparison. It really boils down to fear.
Which brought me back to the second reading, a reading I did not want to touch, let alone preach about.
You see, when I first read it Monday morning, I welled up and began to cry. I wanted to avoid St. Paul at all costs, because it was too close to home.
Unlike St. Paul at this point in his life, I don’t want to look at my weakness at this point in my life. Every morning when I get up, I don’t want to admit that strength is ever so slowly being taken from me in my hands and arms and that physical weakness is winning.
I don’t like it that brushing my teeth is becoming so difficult that I need both hands to do so, or that lifting the towel after my shower is such a struggle.
I know this is not what St. Paul is talking about, which makes it all the more difficult, because I don’t want to admit the weakness of my faith and my trust in what St. Paul says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
How paradoxical this seems to me, for it begs the question: whose power, God’s or mine?
Not only whose power, but whose will is made perfect in weakness? God’s, or mine?
Whose plan is made perfect in weakness? God’s or mine?
Whose purpose is made perfect in weakness? God’s or mine?
I apologize for being so personal in my homilies these days, but I struggle so with faith, with true surrender, with truly believing and accepting that God is God and I’m not!
Some days, more than others, I struggle with the infinite wisdom of God, which as St. Paul says, “Is beyond all our imagining.”
This brings me back to our gospel when Mark writes, “Jesus was not able to perform any mighty deeds there…He was amazed at their lack of faith.”
How am I hindering Jesus’ power because of my lack of faith?
How am I getting in the way of Jesus’ healing and teaching because I don’t focus on being an instrument for what Jesus can do in and through me rather than looking at what I can do in and of myself?
I become my own stumbling block, my own thorn in the side. My pride, my fear, my lack of surrender all get in the way of proclaiming with St. Paul that, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
Please pray for me that Jesus’ power may somehow, in some small way, be made manifest in and through my weakness as your pastor. For I want to believe, and surrender to the truth of St. Paul’s words that, “When I am weak, then, and only then I am strong.”