Although written almost 2,000 years ago, the Gospel reading for today (14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B) is very appropriate for us as Catholics today:
Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, "Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?"
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
"A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house."
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith. (Mk 6:1-6)
In the homily this morning, our priest pointed out there were times in Jesus’ ministry when He was amazed at the faith of the people He was ministering to (e.g. Matt 8:10). But in stark contrast to this, when ministering to the people He grew up with the Gospel reading ends with the sad words that “He was amazed at their lack of faith”.
What was the reason for their unbelief? How is it that they could be astonished at His teachings and miracles, but still refuse to believe in Him? The Gospel tells us that the reason for their refusal to believe was their familiarity with Jesus. He had grown up in their neighbourhood – they knew Him; they knew the Blessed Virgin; they knew St. Joseph; they knew His cousins. Some of the men and women in the Synagogue may even have been Jesus’ childhood companions. So even though they were astonished at His teachings, because they were too familiar with Jesus, they were not willing to believe.
This is a sombre reminder for us as Catholics.
How little the reverence we show in our lives and in our worship? We grow too accustomed to the beauty that is the Catholic Church, and so we lose sight of that beauty. How many of us have complained about the “staid traditions” of pre-Vatican II days? As a convert, who has had the blessing of seeing the true value and beauty of these traditions, I believe that we only become bored with the traditional when we allow ourselves to become too familiar with tradition – and so the traditions lose their power of impact in our lives.
But there is something even more serious to consider...
How little the reverence that we show for our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament? Think about it? Do we really believe that Jesus is truly present – Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity – in the Eucharist? I think that sometimes we get so familiar with the theology and terminology of the Real Presence that we actually lose sight of the immense gravity of it.
When was the last time that we genuflected before entering our pews whilst consciously acknowledging with our whole being that we were doing so because the King of Kings was present and hidden in the Tabernacle? Or when was the last time we considered that, while we knelt in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, we were in the VERY PRESENCE of the Living God?
Even though He is hidden under the appearance of bread, it is no less true that right there before our very eyes is the Creator of the Universe!!! When we gaze on the Blessed Sacrament, we are gazing at the same Jesus who died on Calvary for our sins – the very same Jesus who rose again three days later and is now ascended to Heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father.
How seldom, if ever, do we actually ponder the sheer magnificence of this truth?!?
I believe that, based on our lack of reverence in our churches, we as Catholics need to do some serious soul-searching – and we need to do some serious God-searching too. May today’s Gospel reading come as a timely reminder and warning to us to never grow so familiar with Christ that we lose our faith.