These past weeks we have seen the growing success and popularity of Jesus Christ. People were amazed with Him that great crowds kept on following Him wherever He would go to hear Him preach and most especially to touch Him or be touched by Him to be healed of all kinds of sickness. Jesus was “viral” and “trending” in every town He visited around the Lake of Galilee except in His hometown of Nazareth which is His next stop today.
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.(Mk.6:2-3)
In spite of the popular enthusiasm He had aroused during His ministry, Jesus was no stranger to bitter disappointments and failures. All four evangelists tell us of the many times Jesus was rejected by people, reaching its highest point in His crucifixion. See how Mark noted in our gospel today how the people refused to recognize Jesus Christ, “And they took offense at him.” It was an attack on the very person of Jesus, not on His works! See how the people’s queries about Him were tinted with malice and suspicion. This is the ugly side of that adage “familiarity breeds contempt” when those closest to you, when those who are supposed to know you more and better are the ones who refuse to believe you. This is the reason 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.”(Mk.6:4)
But it is also here where we find the good news for us this Sunday: when we feel rejected or unaccepted or doubted by those closest to us, do not despair. Not all days are bright and sunny for us that in everything we do we are accepted and appreciated. Sometimes, there are dark clouds of doubts and suspicions cast over us, on our very person by those closest to us like family and relatives, friends and neighbors. And in those moments of rejection, try to feel in your heart Jesus Christ who always believes in you because He Himself sent you as His prophets, His spokesperson. Like Ezekiel in the first reading, we are all prophets sent to speak of God’s love and mercy in this world where everything and everyone is doubted, questioned and examined like microorganisms under a microscope. It does not matter “whether they heed or resist – for they are a rebellious house – they shall know that a prophet has been among them.”(Ez.2:5) Like all the prophets, keep doing what you believe is good. Keep pursuing your dreams and keep striving to be better not to prove yourself and disprove those around you but because it is a mission from God Himself to express His love and concern for everyone. Even if others refuse to believe in us, even if they refuse to accept us, we continue to speak to them, we continue to serve them, we continue to love them, we continue to be among them just like Jesus because we believe. Most of all, because we love.
This was the moving spirit behind St. Paul’s enthusiasm amidst many sufferings and rejections: “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak then I am strong.” (2Cor.12:9-10) In imitating Jesus Christ, St. Paul realized power is made perfect in weakness on the Cross. When we let go of our power and strength, God fills us with life and resurrection. Recall the days you relied more on God, when you refused to fight back or resort to violence so as not to go down to “lowlife” level – those are the same moments of your sweetest victories and maturity because those were the moments we have truly loved. When we love, it means we believe. We have faith! Note how Mark ended his story today with a note that Jesus “was not able to do any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hand on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.”(Mk.6:6)
The people took offense at Jesus for they lacked faith because they do not love Him. The problem is not with God if nothing good is happening in our lives like when we cannot experience healing and forgiveness. We have to believe in Jesus first for us to see Him present. To believe in Him, like with any person demands love. When we truly love a person including Jesus, our eyes are always opened, recognizing them even in their shadows or footsteps. When we truly love anyone, there is no need to see because in our hearts, that person is already present in us. And so we believe. Then miracles happen, joy overflows. A blessed week ahead of you! Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya Ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan