Gospel – Mark 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Reflection on the Gospel

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

If the readings for today were offered as a job description of one intent on taking a stand for what is right, I doubt that anyone would apply for the position. In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel is told: “I am sending you to… a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; …whose children are bold of face and stubborn of heart.” The gospel passage is no more encouraging. Because of his teaching, Jesus is rejected
by the people of his own hometown, people who knew the integrity of his family, people who watched him grow from a pious boy into a deeply religious young man. Such is the lot of the prophet. But then, who really wants to be a prophet?

Many people today think of a prophet as a woman or man who can look into the future as a fortuneteller might. Others ascribe prophetic insight to popular religious speakers or writers who promise a bright and prosperous future. Finally, social critics are often labeled prophets. While certain aspects of each characterization are found in the biblical portrayals of the prophets, none of them accurately describes
them. Biblical prophets do have insight, but into the present, not primarily into the future. They do speak of the future, but as the unfolding of the actions of the present. Furthermore, the future they promise is not always bright and prosperous. Our understanding of justice claims that faithful living promises a bright future, but unfaithfulness brings forth misfortune. Finally, not every social critic is a prophet; some of them
are simply whiners.

What most characterizes the biblical prophets was their commitment to God and to their religious tradition. It was because of this commitment that they were well aware of the infidelity of their religious companions. For this reason they spoke out in condemnation. Some denounced the people for sins of idolatry (Hosea). Others cried out against the people’s disdain for issues of social justice (Amos). Today’s readings do not focus on a prophetic message of consolation or comfort; they consist of a prophetic call to repentance and righteous living, and they underscore the people’s response to that call. In these readings it is a response of rebellion and rejection.

As members of the body of Christ, we are all called to take a stand for matters of justice and peace. This requires that we critique current social and religious systems and practices that diverge from or openly conflict with aspects of our religious tradition. Like the prophets, we must know well and be committed to that tradition. Then we must be willing to pay the price for that commitment; to remain steadfast in the face of misunderstanding, criticism, rejection, and sometimes even physical danger. Whether we appreciate the job description or not, by virtue of our Baptism, we have all been called to be this kind of a prophet.

Dianne Bergant, CSA, is Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP Distinguished Professor Emerita of Biblical Studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Illinois. She is a past President of the Catholic Biblical Association of America and has been an active member of the Chicago Catholic/Jewish Scholars Dialogue for the past thirty years. For more than twenty-five years she has been the Old Testament book reviewer of The Bible Today, having been a member of the editorial board for twenty-five years. She has authored numerous articles and publications, including most recently: A New Heaven, A New Earth, (2016). She is currently working in the areas of biblical interpretation and biblical theology, particularly issues of peace, ecology and feminism.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.