There is one particularly important truth to be learnt and personally assimilated from TODAY’S GOSPEL [MARK 6: 1 – 6]. “He could do no mighty work there.” He could not! It was not a matter of being without the ability nor being disinclined. Rather, it was a matter of a lack of acceptance and receptivity. “And they took offence at him.” In some real way Jesus’ effectiveness depends on my willingness to accept him for what he really is – together with an openness to receive what he is more than capable of achieving with and in me.
Let us link this with the two previous reflections. First of all, take as your anchor the closing words from last week. “None of these things can be given or received at a distance.” Secondly, last week emphasised how both Jairus and the sick woman really WANTED to receive something special from Jesus. Finally, like John the Baptist, the two of them chose to ‘arrive’ on the scene and both placed themselves in a receptive situation.
It is interesting in our context to recall the incident of the rich man and Lazarus {see Luke 16: 19 – 31}. The closing sentence tells us – “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets they will pay no heed even if someone should rise from the dead.”The rich man had passed Lazarus by, day after day. He had been ‘present’ but had he ever ‘arrived’ on the scene – and then made a difference? His brothers were repeating the same approach. Nothing would change.

It occurs to me that it may very well have been the case that “they took offence” at Lazarus, lying right at their gate. We should be able to discern that the rich man, together with his brothers, was a stark contrast to a stanza in

TODAY’S PSALM [123 or 122]. “Like the eyes of a servant … so our eyes are on the Lord our God, till he show us his mercy,” Notice how these words make clear the idea of being receptive as a result of a specific approach.
The attraction of darkness is strong and we all carry a fascination for the destructive forces in our deepest centre. Perhaps the rich man saw Lazarus as a totally flawed personality without any real value? The basic problem for members of the Nazareth synagogue was somewhat different. They knew who Jesus was – a generally good, pleasant neighbour and a competent carpenter. He made good window frames, doors, tables and chairs. Very often a truly good and valuable Christian-Catholic is rejected because he or she is flawed in some particular way. Jesus, like so many other valuable members of the Christian community, is rejected because he or she is not flawed enough. The leaders of the synagogue wonder how this local kid can be such a font of wisdom and grace.

Where are the warts? He must be a scam …. he looks too good! “Many who heard him were astonished, saying ‘where did this man get all this? … what mighty works are wrought by his hands’.”

In TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [2 CORINTHIANS 12: 7 – 10] Saint Paul admits that he is flawed. He speaks of “a thorn given me in the flesh … to harass me … to keep me from being too elated.” In past years I may have, in these reflections, drawn attention to a real ‘jewel-thought’ of Ernest Hemingway. He once said that “while life breaks all of us, some people grow at the broken places.” Paul grew in his broken place.
Did the leaders of the synagogue? Do we? Could Jesus ever have been able to do a mighty work with them? Is he able to still do mighty works with us? Indeed he is but we need to be receptive. We need to ‘arrive’ and not be satisfied with merely being ‘present’. So, how do I deal with my broken places?

The first thing that needs to happen is for us to acknowledge and accept them. What should follow is both more important and productive – and this involves necessary suffering. We have to encounter and then dismantle them. If we fail here then we join the “set of rebels” presented to us in TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [EZEKIEL 2: 2 – 5]. Our God ‘sends’ his servants. He sent the Baptist. He sent Jesus who encountered rebels in Nazareth.
God himself asks – “who is this whose ignorant words cloud my designs in darkness? Brace yourself and stand up like a man. (see Job 38: 2 & 3)

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