Jesus Returns to Nazareth

Pope on Balcony.jpg

He Is Rejected by the People, Which Leads Him to Say: “A Prophet Is Not Without Honor, Except in His Own Country”

JULY 08, 2018

Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today, before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today’s Gospel reading (Cf. Mark 6:1-6) presents Jesus, who returns to Nazareth and, on the Sabbath, begins to teach in the synagogue. From the time He left and began to preach in the neighboring hamlets and villages, He had not set foot in His homeland. He returned. Therefore, the whole country was ready to hear this son of the people, whose reputation as wise Teacher and powerful healer now spread throughout Galilee and beyond. However, what could have been a success, turned into a resounding rejection, to the point that Jesus was unable to work any miracles there, but only a few healings (Cf. v. 5). The evangelist Mark reconstructs in detail the dynamic of that day: at first, the people of Nazareth listened and remained astonished; then, perplexed, they asked “where did this man get all this,” this wisdom? And, in the end, they were scandalized, recognizing in Him the carpenter, son of Mary, whom they saw grow up (vv. 2-3). Therefore, Jesus ended with the expression that became proverbial: ”A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country” (v. 4).

We wonder: how did Jesus’ countrymen go from wonder to incredulity? They made a comparison between Jesus’ humble origin and His present capacities: He is a carpenter; He hasn’t studied, yet He preaches better than the scribes and works miracles. And, instead of opening themselves to the reality, they are scandalized. According to the inhabitants of Nazareth, God is too great to lower Himself to speak to such a simple man! It’s the scandal of the Incarnation: the disconcerting event of a God made flesh, who thinks with the mind of a man, works and acts with the hands of a man, loves with the heart of a man, a God who gets tired, eats and sleeps like one of us. The Son of God overturns every human scheme: it’s not the disciples that washed the Lord’s feet, but it’s the Lord who washed the disciples’ feet (Cf. John 13:1-20). This was a motive of scandal and incredulity, not only at that time <but> in every age, also today.

The overturning wrought by Jesus commits His disciples of yesterday and of today to a personal and communal verification. In fact, it can happen in our days also that prejudices are fuelled, which impede accepting the reality. However, the Lord invites us to assume an attitude of humble listening and docile expectation, because God’s grace often presents itself to us in surprising ways, which don’t correspond to our expectations. We think, at the same time, of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, for instance.  A small, little Sister – no one gave 10 lire for her – who went through the streets to pick up the dying, so that they would have a dignified death. With prayer and her work, this little Sister did wonders! The littleness of a woman revolutionized the work of charity in the Church. She is an example of our days. God doesn’t conform Himself to prejudices. We must force ourselves to open our heart and mind to receive the divine reality that comes to meet us. It’s about having faith: the lack of faith is an obstacle to God’s grace. Many baptized persons live as if Christ didn’t exist: the gestures and signs of the faith are repeated, but they do not correspond to a real adherence to the person of Jesus and His Gospel. Every Christian — all of us, each one of us — is called to reflect further on this fundamental belonging, seeking to witness it with a coherent conduct of life, whose thread is always charity.

Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, let us ask the Lord to soften the hardness of hearts and narrow-mindedness, so that we are open to His grace, to His truth and to His mission of goodness and mercy, which is addressed to all, without any exceptions.