Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"IS HE NOT THE CARPENTER?"


Homily for February 1st, 2017: Mark 6:1-6.

There’s a 19th century hymn, little known to Catholics, which goes like this:

          I think when I read that sweet story of old,

          When Jesus was here among men,

          How he called little children as lambs to the fold:

          I should like to have been with them then.

It’s a nice sentiment. But it hardly corresponds to the historical reality. Most of the people who encountered Jesus found him quite ordinary. “Is he not the carpenter?” they ask in today’s gospel reading. And Mark, the gospel writer adds: “They took offense at him.”  

That remains true today. People encounter Jesus today not in his human body but through his mystical body, the Church – through us, who in baptism were made eyes, ears, hands, feet, and voice for Jesus Christ. He has no other.     

The Catholic Church is human, as Jesus was human. Most of the time it is ordinary, as Jesus was ordinary. It can be remote, as Jesus was sometimes remote. It can be weak, as Jesus seemed weak to his contemporaries when he refused to use the divine power he manifested in his miracles to avoid crucifixion.

Hidden behind this ordinariness and remoteness and weakness, however, is all the power of God; all the compassion of his Son Jesus; and all the strength of his Holy Spirit, who came in fiery tongues on the first Pentecost to kindle a fire that is still burning; and to sweep people off their feet with a rushing mighty wind that is still blowing.

Most of Jesus’ contemporaries took offense at him. Or as another translation of our gospel reading has it, “They found him too much for them.”

What about you?