The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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June 30, 2000 Issue
Fr. Ver Bust's Column:
"Explaining the Gospel"

Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Faith brought about the healing

Be open to faith and acknowledge the work of God among us

July 9, Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Our reading begins with Jesus' departure from the shores of Galilee to travel to his hometown of Nazareth. The disciples accompanied Jesus. On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue. It was the custom that any adult Jewish man could speak in the synagogue, reading the scriptures and commenting on them. Jesus had already begun to be recognized as a teacher and news of this had reached Nazareth.

The reaction of those in the synagogue is of surprise. They wondered where Jesus had learned these things. They also likely reacted to the content of his message. They probably asked who was Jesus' teacher. They then also thought of the stories they had heard of the healings that had taken place and asked where and how he had gotten such powers.

The question "Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary?" is ironic and a put down. One would not have asked whether he was the son of Mary since the custom was to be recognized as the son of a father. Some scholars have suggested that Joseph was dead and that was the reason. It is more likely that it was a negative and had a harsh implication. They were not questioning the fatherhood of Joseph. They had a mental block and would not accept Jesus. Jesus recognized this by quoting the proverb that a prophet is not accepted by his own.

We today probably also wonder about the reference to Jesus' brothers and sisters. Our Catholic tradition stresses that Mary remained a virgin even after Jesus' birth. Other Christian traditions do not emphasize this and accept that Mary and Joseph had other children. In response we have said that the word in their language could also mean cousins. One's interpretation is a theological question that cannot be proven or disproven by the text.

The point Mark is trying to make is the importance of faith. He even tells us that Jesus could not do any mighty works there because of that lack of faith. Matthew in telling the same story softens the statement by saying he simply did not do so, while Luke omits this point altogether. Mark himself modifies the statement by accepting there were some healings. We must remember that in the overall scheme of Mark there is a stress on the relationship between faith and Jesus' healings. Mark, in fact, often says that Jesus did not take direct credit but said that the person's faith had brought about the healing.

What seems to be happening is the contrast between those who should have known Jesus well since he grew up there and the fact that in another sense they really didn't know him. The power of God was not going to force them to believe. They had to be open in faith to who Jesus was and what he was doing in building the Kingdom of God. We probably all think that we would have reacted differently. Yet really would we have done so? Even today we still must have faith and acknowledge the work of God among us.

(Fr. Ver Bust is professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)

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