Fr. Ver Bust's Column:|
"Explaining the Gospel"
|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.)