Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Week 4 Wednesday (Year 2)

Readings: 2 Samuel 24:2, 9-17; Psalm 32; Mark 6:1-6

Jesus comes to his own country, literally to his 'fatherland', to what belongs to his father. The word is used twice in this short gospel passage (vv.1,4). And perhaps this is the root of the problem in his own country: what he has come to is not, truly, his fatherland. They think they know him, that he belongs to them, that they have made him. They say they know his mother, his brothers, his sisters. Notice that they do not mention his father. Is this because they do not know who his father is? In a deeper sense, of course, that is precisely the problem: they do not know who his Father is. They do not know where he has come from, his origin, his nature. He does not belong to them in the way they think he does. In Luke's gospel, as an adolescent, he says to his mother, 'did you not know that I must be about my father's business, in my father's house, in my (true) fatherland?'

They know he is a carpenter, a tekton. They know what his job is, therefore, what he is meant to produce. So where do these mighty works come from? He is a craftsman, skilled with his hands, not a teacher. Whence comes the wisdom that shines in his words as in his actions? One of their own, yet they do not know him. They are unsettled, tripped up by him (the literal meaning of  'scandalised'). A familiar face, and yet he is a stranger to them. He is a craftsman, yes, a poet, author, and master, but they fail to put two and two together. Who is the author of these mighty works he does, works that renew, heal and re-create broken humanity? It cannot be him, they say, because we know who he is, and where he belongs, and what is to be expected of him.

Jesus has come to reveal his Father to them. That means he has come to introduce them to their true homeland (their true fatherland). He is present with them as the witness of the Father, teaching them marvellous things, and as the Father's instrument in a work of re-creation. In the chapters just before this one we have seen his power over all the levels of creation. His own people fail to see that he is indeed a tekton, a craftsman and more, the one through whom all things were made. It is too much to expect that they would understand so much, so quickly. The Church took a long time to realise all it has about the nature and person of Jesus. And we continue to explore His mystery centuries later.

The sad thing is that his own country, his own kin, his own house, has the power to disempower him, to block the marvellous teaching and the wonderful works. We might be tempted to think, 'well that was them and we are we and he belongs to us in a different way'. That would be to make him a citizen of our fatherland rather than agreeing to follow him into his Fatherland. We must keep alert to the temptation of thinking that now it is we (and we alone) who are his own country, his own kin, his own house. It seems like a sure road to misunderstanding him, a way of failing to grasp his teaching, in fact a way of tripping ourselves up because of him and, in the process, placing the obstacle of faithlessness in the path of his saving power.

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