Being nourished by the mission

Gospel reflection for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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On this day, Jesus returned to where he came from. Everything appears to begin well.

His listeners in the synagogue are impressed by his teachings and by the power of his actions. This child of their own country should surely be celebrated, here in his “place of origin.”

Don’t we often see a sense of pride grow among those who have known a famous person when they were growing up? They often relish the contrast between their humble beginnings and the fame they have later achieved.

Exaggeration is not infrequent, and sometimes bold claims are made that emphasize nationality and highlight the prodigiousness of one who has blossomed from unlikely roots.

How will things turn out for Jesus here? He carries within him a well of wisdom, without anyone knowing where it came from.

His hands can perform miracles. Is he not the carpenter, this son of Mary? Yet the fascination that greets him, perhaps combined with jealousy and surprise, is not to be confused with faith!

Admiring this son of Nazareth is not the same as believing in him. Being intrigued by his popularity does not mean receiving him in one’s heart. There is test of truth, which brings an undeniable human and spiritual shock for Jesus.

In the Gospel of Mark, he says he is “amazed by the unbelief” of those who knew Jesus as a child.

St. Francis de Sales also underlines this point in one of his homilies: “Having witnessed so many amazing acts, those who should have been the most receptive did not convert. Oh how astonishing, it astonishes even the Lord!”

This touches an important aspect of Christian spirituality: the more we profess a God who is incarnate in Jesus, the more we discover his freedom with regard to others, starting with those closest to him.

As Paul IV insists, “Jesus is the son of Mary, his mother in the flesh and our mother through our acceptance of the Spirit of the mystical body. Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ of nations, the ultimate, mysterious explanation of our history.”

This child who came from a specific time and place is not restricted to a local or private narrative; his destiny is not appropriated. God gave us the gift of humanity through his Son, and a prophetic legacy was born.

It must have been a challenge for Jesus not to be received by those closest to him, but this did not hinder his path. He was nourished by the mission his Father gave him. 

He came to give life to the world, not for others to appropriate his splendor. Did his compatriots neglect to receive Jesus appropriately? He remarks: “No prophet is accepted in his hometown!”

Let our prayers dwell on this. Jesus’ path and his actions are validated by his disciples.

In varying cultural and emotional contexts, aren’t we living, in our own humble ways, the same test of a certain kind of vanity, when the proximity of our human history confronts us and threatens to undermine our freedom?

It is important that we consent, just as Jesus duly acknowledged the non-reception of his message.

God is free to choose the way he manifests himself in each of us. God stirs in us our most fundamental liberty.

For example, at first, the parents of this young man met their son’s vocation with hostility. Then they gradually realized that their son, a son of flesh and blood, did not belong to them. He was full of joy and filled those around him with joy.

This unexpected spread of joy meant that, although they may not have been entirely reconciled, they at least admitted to the presence of a prophesy of a higher order.

More often than we think, it is Nazareth that visits our hearts today!