This homily is based on Mark 6:1-6.
Do we ever cramp the Lord’s style?
I suspect that’s what happens in the scene we have in the Gospel today. Jesus goes back to his hometown and preaches at the village synagogue. Not an easy thing to do since he’s surrounded by people he’s grown up with, people who’ve known him, people who think they can see right through him.
I can only imagine how that feels. Is the Lord nervous more than usual? Does he look into their eyes trying to guess their thoughts, looking desperately for some encouragement and support? Or does he, as I sometimes do, turn away and fix his gaze on that space above the heads of the audience because that space has no eyes?
But whatever the Lord is feeling, he eventually takes a deep breath and summons all his courage to open his 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 Jesus’ feet, as he has feared. They take flight; they shed light. The wisdom of his words and the authority of his voice–they take Jesus’ relatives and neighbors by surprise.
But then they recover, and it happens: Human nature takes over. Even before he’s 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?”
Jesus doesn’t hear most of it, but he knows. He can read the cynicism and resentment on their faces. They choose to refer to him as “the son of Mary” rather than use the customary name of his father, resurrecting the ugly insinuations about his birth. That can, of course, only hurt since his mother is probably there listening, too.
We’re told Jesus is not able to perform many miracles there. I think what they’ve managed to do–his relatives and neighbors, and all those childhood friends–is cramp his style. And they’ve done that by putting him 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 him permission to pull too many surprises for them.
Maybe familiarity breeds more than contempt. Maybe familiarity–this presumption that we already know the Lord and everything about him–can breed a dangerous jadedness that eliminates mysteries and aborts miracles.
Lord, do we cramp your style? Do we sometimes believe that we already know you too well? Let us never go there, Lord: Never let us try to second-guess you and keep you from performing those much-needed miracles in my life. Help us toss out whatever presumptions we have about knowing you because to paraphrase St. Ambrose, whatever we think we know about you, you’re simply still always so much more. Amen.