CRAMPING YOUR STYLE (Mark 6:1-6): 05 July 2009 (Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Do I ever do anything to cramp your style?
I suspect that’s what happens in the scene we have in the Gospel today. You go back to your hometown and preach at the village synagogue. Not an easy thing to do since you’re surrounded by people you’ve grown up with, people who’ve known you, people who think they can see right through you.
I can only imagine how that feels. Are you nervous more than usual? Do you look into their eyes trying to guess their thoughts, looking desperately for some encouragement and support? Or do you, as I sometimes do, turn away and fix your gaze on that space above the heads of the audience because the space has no eyes?
But whatever you’re feeling, you eventually take a deep breath and summon all your courage and open your mouth. And as it often happens when we surrender, the Spirit moves. Words flow, and wonder of wonders, they don’t fall and shatter at your feet, as you’ve feared. They take flight; they shed light. The wisdom of your words and the authority of your voice–they take your relatives and neighbors by surprise.
But then they recover, and it happens: Human nature takes over. Even before you’re done, tongues begin to wag, and the lips of some curl with what familiarity so often breeds.
“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?”
You don’t hear most of it, but you know. You can read the cynicism and resentment on their faces. They choose to refer to you as “the son of Mary” rather than use the customary name of your father, resurrecting the ugly insinuations about your birth. That can, of course, only hurt since your mother is probably there listening, too.
We’re told you’re not able to perform many miracles there. I think what they’ve managed to do–your relatives and neighbors, and all those childhood friends–is cramp your style. And they’ve done that by putting you in some box that they’ve already labeled and neatly filed away. Isn’t he just Jesus? How can he be more or do more? In other words, they’re not giving you permission to pull too many surprises for them.
Maybe familiarity breeds more than contempt. Maybe familiarity–this presumption that we already know you and everything about you–can breed a dangerous jadedness that bans mysteries and aborts miracles.
Lord, do I cramp your style? Do I sometimes believe that I already know you too well? Let me never go there, Lord: Never let me try to second-guess you and keep you from performing those much-needed miracles in my life. Help me toss out whatever presumptions I have about knowing you because to paraphrase St. Ambrose, whatever I think I know about you, you’re simply still always so much more. Amen.
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