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Lectio: 14th Sunday of ordinary time (B)

In Nazareth, where there was no faith,
Jesus could work no miracles!
Everybody’s Mission: to recreate the community
Mark 6:1-6

1. Opening prayer

Lord Jesus, send Your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, You helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of Your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.

Create in us silence so that we may listen to Your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May Your word guide us so that we, too, like the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, may experience the force of Your resurrection and witness to others that You are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of You, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed the Father to us and sent us Your Spirit. Amen.

2. Reading

a) A key to the reading:

On this 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Church presents to us the rejection of Jesus on the part of the people of Nazareth. Passing through Nazareth was painful for Jesus. What was His first community is now no longer such. Something has changed. Those who first accepted Him now reject Him. As we will see later, this experience of rejection led Jesus to go ahead and to change His way of acting.

Has something changed in your relationship with your family or with your friends, since you began to participate in the community? Has participation in the community helped you to accept and to have greater trust in people, especially in the simplest and poorest people?

b) A division of the text to help in the reading:

Mark 6:1: Jesus arrives in Nazareth, His community of origin

Mark 6:2-3: The reaction of the people of Nazareth to Jesus

Mark 6:4: The way in which Jesus accepts the criticism

Mark 6:5-6: The lack of faith prevents Him from working the miracle

c) The text:

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.

3. A moment of prayerful silence

that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.

4. Some questions

to help us in our personal reflection.

a) Which part of this text did you like the most and what impressed you most? Why?

b) What is the attitude of Nazareth toward Jesus? Why do they not believe in Him?

c) Because of the lack of faith of the people, Jesus cannot work many miracles in Nazareth. Why is faith so important? Would it be that Jesus cannot work miracles without the faith of people?

d) What are the elements that characterize the mission of the disciples?

e) Which point of the mission of the apostles has greatest importance for us today? Why?

5. For those who wish to go more deeply into the theme

a) Context of yesterday and of today:

i) Throughout the pages of his Gospel, Mark indicates that the presence and actions of Jesus constitute a growing source of joy for some and a reason for rejection by others. The conflict grows and the mystery of God appears which envelop the person of Jesus. With chapter 6 of the narrative we find ourselves in a curve. The people of Nazareth close themselves up before Jesus (Mk 6:1-6). And Jesus, before this closing up of the people of His community, opens Himself to the people of another community. He directs Himself toward the people of Galilee and sends His disciples on mission, teaching them how the relationship should be with people, so that it will be a true community relationship, which does not exclude, as it had happened among the people of Nazareth (Mk 6:7-13).

ii) When Mark wrote his Gospel, the Christian communities lived in a difficult situation, without horizons. Humanly speaking there was no future for them. The description of the conflict which Jesus faces in Nazareth and in sending out the disciples, which extends the mission, makes it creative. For those who believe in Jesus there can be no situation without a horizon.

b) Commentary on the text

Mark 6:1-3. Reactions of the people of Nazareth to Jesus

It is always good to go back to our own land. After a long absence, Jesus also goes back and, as usual on Saturday, He goes to a meeting of the community. Jesus was not the coordinator, but just the same, He speaks. This is a sign that the people could participate and express their opinion. But the people did not like the words pronounced by Jesus.  They were scandalized. Jesus, who was known to them since He was a child, how is it that now He is so different? The people of Capernaum had accepted the teaching of Jesus (Mark 1:22), but the people of Nazareth remained scandalized and had not accepted it. What was the reason for this rejection? “Is this not the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary?” They did not accept God’s mystery present in such a common person, one like themselves! In order to be able to speak of God, He would have to be different from them!

The expression “brothers of Jesus” causes many polemics between Catholics and Protestants. Basing themselves on this and in other texts, the Protestants say that Jesus had more brothers and sisters and that Mary had more children! We Catholics say that Mary did not have other children. What are we to think about this? In the first place, the two positions, that of Catholics and that of the Protestants, take arguments from the Bible and from the ancient Tradition from their respective Churches. For this reason, it is not appropriate to discuss these questions using rational arguments, which are the fruit of our own ideas. It is a question of deep convictions which have something to do with faith and the sentiment of the people.

The argument supported by ideas alone does not  bring about a conviction of faith, the roots of which are found in the heart! It only irritates and disturbs! But even if I do not agree with the opinion of another, I must always respect it. In the second place, instead of discussing the texts, all of us, Catholics and Protestants, should unite much more to fight in the defense of life, created by God, a life which is so transfigured by poverty, injustice, the lack of faith. We should remember other words of Jesus: “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (Jn 10:10). “So that all may be one, so that the world may believe it was You who sent Me” (Jn 17:21). “You must not stop him. Anyone who is not against us is for us” (Mk 9:39-40).

Mark 6:4-6b. Reactions of Jesus to the attitude of the people of Nazareth

Jesus knows very well that “the saint of the house does not work miracles.” And He asserts, “A prophet is despised only in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house!” In fact, where faith is not accepted, people can do nothing. Prejudice prevents it. Jesus, even if He wanted, can do nothing and remains surprised by their lack of faith.

c) Information on the Gospel of Mark:

This year the Liturgy presents the Gospel of Mark to us in a particular way. Because of this it is worthwhile to give some information which will help us to uncover the message which Mark wants to communicate to us.

· The design of the face of God on the wall of the Gospel of Mark

Jesus dies approximately in the year 33. When Mark writes his Gospel about the year 70, the Christian communities lived already dispersed in the Roman Empire. Some say that Mark writes for the community of Italy. Others say that he does it for those of Syria. It is difficult to know it with certainty. Nevertheless, one thing is certain. The problems were not lacking: the Roman Empire persecuted the Christians, the propaganda of the Empire infiltrated the communities, the Jews from Palestine rebelled against the Roman invasion, there were internal tensions due to diverse tendencies, doctrines and leaders…

Mark writes his Gospel to help the communities find a response to their problems and concerns. He collects various episodes and parables of Jesus and joins them together as bricks on a wall. The bricks were already ancient and known. They came from the community, where they were transmitted orally in meetings and celebrations. The design formed by the bricks was new. It came from Mark, from his experience of Jesus. He wanted the community, reading what Jesus did and said, to find a response to these questions: “Who is Jesus for us and who are we for Jesus? How can we be His disciples? How can we proclaim the Good News of God that He has revealed? How can we travel on the path that He traced?

· Three keys to understanding the division of the Gospel of Mark

1st Key: The Gospel of Mark was written to be read and listened to in community. When a book is read alone, one can always turn back, to join one thing to another, but when one is in community and a person is reading the Gospel to us, it is not possible to say, “Stop! Read that again! I did not understand well!” As we shall see, a book written to be listened to in  community celebrations has a different way of dividing the theme from a book written to be read by one alone.

2nd Key: The Gospel of Mark is a narrative. A narrative is like a river. Going through the river in a boat, one is not aware of the divisions in the water. The river has no divisions! It is constituted by one flow alone, from the beginning to the end. In the river, the divisions, are made beginning from the bank of the river. For example it is said: “ What a beautiful part which goes from that house up to the curve where there is a palm, three curves after that.” But in the water no divisions can be seen. Mark’s narrative runs like a river. Its divisions, those who listen, find them on the margin, that is to say, in the places through which Jesus passed by, in the geography, in the persons whom He meets, along the roads He travels. These indications on the margin help those who listen to not get lost in the midst of so many words and actions of Jesus and by Jesus. The geographic framework helps the reader to walk with Jesus, step after step, from Galilee to Jerusalem, from the lake to Calvary.

3rd Key: the Gospel of Mark was written so as to be read in one sitting. This is what the Jews did with the brief books of the Old Testament.  Some scholars affirm that the Gospel of Mark was written to be read completely in the course of the night of the long Paschal vigil. Or, in order to not get the people who listened tired, the reading had to be divided and to have some pauses. Besides, when a narrative is long, as that of the Gospel of Mark, its reading has to be interrupted quite often. In certain moments there is need for a pause, otherwise the listeners would be lost. These pauses were foreseen by the author of the narrative himself . These pauses were marked by short summaries, between two long readings. Practically, the same thing that happens in television. Every day, at the beginning of the news  some scenes of the preceding transmission are repeated. When they end, some scenes of the next day are presented. These summaries are like the hinges which collect what has been read and open to what will follow. They allow one to stop and to begin anew, without interrupting or disturbing the sequence of the narrative. They help those who listen to place themselves in the river of the narrative which flows. In the Gospel of Mark there are diverse summaries of this type, or pauses, which allow us to discover and follow the thread of the Good News of God which Jesus has revealed to us and that Mark tells us. In the whole, there is a question of seven blocks or longer readings, intermingled with short summaries or hinges, where it is possible to make a pause.

· A division of the Gospel of Mark

Below we give a possible division of the Gospel of Mark. Others divide it in a different way. The importance of a division is that it opens one of the many windows inside the text, and that it helps us to discover the direction of the road which Jesus opened for us toward the Father and the brothers and sisters.

Mark 1:1-13                     Beginning of the Good News

                                               Prepare the announcement

                                                         1st Reading

Mark 1:14-15                   pause, summary, hinge

Mark 1:16-3:16               The Good News grows

                                               The conflict becomes present

                                                          2nd Reading

Mark 3:7-12                     pause, summary, hinge

Mark 3:13-6:6                  The conflict grows

                                               The Mystery appears

                                                         3rd Reading

Mark 6:7-13                     pause, summary, hinge

Mark 6:14-8:21                The Mystery grows

                                               It is not understood

                                                         4th Reading

Mark 8:22-26                   pause, summary, hinge

Mark 8:27-10:45              They continue not to understand

                                             The dark light of the Cross appears

                                                         5th Reading

Mark 10:46-52                 pause, summary, hinge

Mark 11:1-13:32              The dark light of the Cross grows

                                               Rupture and death appear

                                                          6th Reading

Mark 13:33-37                  pause, summary, hinge

Mark 14:1-15:39               Rupture and death grow

                                               Victory over death appears

                                                          7th Reading

Mark 15:40-41                  pause, summary, hinge

Mark 15:42-16:20            The victory over death increases

                                                The Good News reappears

                                                          8th Reading

Mark 16:9-20

In this division the titles are important. They indicate the path of the Spirit, of inspiration, which the Gospel follows from the beginning until the end. When an artist has an inspiration, he tries to express it in a work of art. A poem or an image which is produced encloses in itself this inspiration. Inspiration is like an electric force which runs invisibly through the wires and lights the lamp in our houses. In the same way,   inspiration runs invisibly through the letters of the poem or the form of the image to reveal  in us a light similar or almost similar to that which shone in the soul of the artist. This is the reason why artistic works attract and shake people so much. The same thing happens when we read and meditate on the Gospel of Mark. The same Spirit or Inspiration which impelled Mark to write the text continues to be present in the words of his Gospel. Through our attentive and prayerful reading, this Spirit acts and begins to act in us. And thus, little by little, we discover the face of God who has revealed Himself in Jesus and which Mark communicates to us in his book.

6. Prayer of Psalm 145

Always give thanks for everything!

I shall praise You to the heights,
God my King,
I shall bless Your name for ever and ever.
Day after day I shall bless You,
I shall praise Your name for ever and ever.
Great is Yahweh and worthy of all praise,
His greatness beyond all reckoning.
Each age will praise Your deeds to the next,
proclaiming Your mighty works.
Your renown is the splendor of your glory,
I will ponder the story of Your wonders.
They will speak of Your awesome power,
and I shall recount Your greatness.
They will bring out the memory of Your great generosity,
and joyfully acclaim Your saving justice.
Yahweh is tenderness and pity,
slow to anger, full of faithful love.
Yahweh is generous to all,
His tenderness embraces all His creatures.
All Your creatures shall thank You,
Yahweh, and Your faithful shall bless You.
They shall speak of the glory of Your kingship
and tell of Your might,
making known Your mighty deeds to the children of Adam,
the glory and majesty of Your kingship.
Your kingship is a kingship for ever,
Your reign lasts from age to age.
Yahweh is trustworthy in all His words,
and upright in all His deeds.
Yahweh supports all who stumble,
lifts up those who are bowed down.
All look to You in hope
and You feed them with the food of the season.
And, with generous hand,
You satisfy the desires of every living creature.
Upright in all that He does,
Yahweh acts only in faithful love.
He is close to all who call upon Him,
all who call on Him from the heart.
He fulfills the desires of all who fear Him,
He hears their cry and He saves them.
Yahweh guards all who love Him,
but all the wicked He destroys.
My mouth shall always praise Yahweh,
let every creature bless His holy name for ever and ever.

7. Final Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May Your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice what Your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, Your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

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