Sunday Scriptures

First Impressions Can Be Limiting

by Father John Cush

JESUS CAUSES quite a bit of scandal in today’s Gospel reading taken from the sixth chapter of Mark’s Gospel. The people who have known Jesus since His early life, those who have seen Him grow up and those who know His family, simply can’t believe He’s doing what He’s doing right now. They can’t believe that some people are claiming that this Jesus, someone whom they know all too well, might actually be the long-awaited Messiah.

This Gospel was cited at times as the reason why priests were rarely assigned to their home parishes, although, as a trend, that seems to not be as taboo as it once was. I can think of at least three pastors in our dioceses who serve with distinction in the parishes where they had grown up as young men.  I once asked one of them if it is a difficult situation to preach to people whom he had known for a long time, and he responded that most of those who knew him are either rather elderly or have moved away, so it’s not a big issue!

Yet, in today’s gospel, these locals from Nazareth are put off and want to know who this Jesus actually thinks that He is. They know Him. They know His Mother. They know His brothers. They know this carpenter’s son all too well.

Are we like that with the people in our lives? Do we allow people to grow, to develop, to change, to become each day the person whom the Lord has created them to be? Or do we box them into a category, allowing our first impressions to be our last impressions?

Do we reduce people to stereotypes and not permit them to exhibit the tremendous uniqueness that they possess as human beings created in God’s image and likeness, and despite the presence of sin — original, personal and social — still are fundamentally good?

And, to bring this to a higher level, have we boxed in Jesus in our lives?  Do we think that we know the Lord all too well?  Do we ever allow our relationship with Jesus to grow and change and develop?  Have things grown stagnant in our relationship with the son of the carpenter who is, in reality, the Son of the Most High God?

Do we feel that we know that we know the mother of Jesus all too well? That we know the wife of the carpenter all too well?  Have we allowed our love and filial devotion to the Blessed Mother of God, Mary, to grow and develop?

Have we allowed our relationship with the brothers of the Lord to atrophy?  Who are the brothers of the Lord?  Ultimately, they are not blood brothers, for it is the doctrinal teaching of our Church that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, remained a virgin, before, during and after childbirth (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 499-501).  Who then are the brothers of the Lord?  It is us, His Mystical Body, the Church.

How is our relationship with the Church?  Have we increased our level of understanding of the Church’s teachings on important issues?  Do we seek out a full, adult comprehension of the teachings of the Church on issues of faith and morals or do we simply stick to what we think that the Church teaches on these particular issues?

How then can we remedy all this close-mindedness in our relationships with the Lord, with our Lady, with the Church and with our brothers and sisters in the world today? I would submit that we could begin with being open to all the richness and beauty that surround us in the world and in the Church, in our spiritual lives and in our active lives in the world today.

The world is a beautiful place, filled with the goodness of God shining forth in the faces around us. May we be open to others in our moral lives and in our spiritual lives so that the Kingdom of God might break into the world today.[hr] Father Cush will begin doctoral studies in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome this fall.Readings for 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Ezekiel 2, 2-5
Psalm 123, 1-2, 3-4
2 Corinthians 12, 7-10
Mark 6, 1-6

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