Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, (B), Sunday, July 8th, 2018:
By Father Scott Karnik
There is a stark contrast in this Sunday’s readings when compared to last Sunday’s. In the gospel today, we see that people in Jesus’s hometown of Nazareth reject Him. They reject Jesus because of their unbelieving astonishment. To “astonish” means “to strike with sudden wonder.” The Nazoreans say “Where did he get all this? What kind of wisdom is He endowed with? How is it that such miraculous deeds are accomplished by his hands?”(Mark 6:2). They know Jesus and they know that He did not attend a rabbinical school. They know Jesus and they ask “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, a brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not his sisters our neighbors here?”(Mark 6:3). Then comes this telling sentence: “They found him too much for them”(Mark 6:3). The Nazoreans demonstrate to Jesus their lack of faith, their unwillingness to believe. Compare that with the characters in last week’s gospel. The synagogue official fell at Jesus’s feet “and made this earnest appeal:…”(Mark 5:23). The woman suffering from the hemorrhage “heard about Jesus and came up behind Him in the crowd and put her hand to his cloak. If I just touch his clothing, she thought, I shall get well”(Mark 5:27-28). These two accepted in faith Jesus, what He taught, and what He did. Jesus tells the synagogue official to have faith. Jesus says “Fear is useless. What is needed is trust”(Mark 5:36).
What is needed is faith. So what is faith? The Catholic Church identifies faith as one of the theological virtues. We pray for faith, hope, and charity in every Rosary we pray. And we should pray the Rosary daily. The Hebrew word for faith in the Old Testament means “steadfastness.” It signifies a person’s attitude of trustfulness and belief. The Nazoreans reject Jesus’s preaching of the kingdom of God. Because Jesus had grown up amongst them, they refuse to recognize Jesus’s extraordinary mission. They would reject Jesus as a divinely-appointed teacher. They knew His relatives and His humble way of life. The Nazoreans are skeptical and unfriendly. Jesus was only “the son of Mary,…”(Mark 6:3). Jesus says that jealousy and familiarity create prejudice against Him. That is the real reason they are offended. This is also an affirmation that Jesus was a prophet to the rebellious Jews, just like Ezekiel was (Ezek 2:5).
What is needed is faith. Faith is an act of assent, an act by which one understands or judges propositions or opinions to be true. The synagogue official and the woman in last Sunday’s gospel had faith; they assented to a supernatural truth, that Jesus could cure the woman’s hemorrhage and the little girl’s (fatal) illness. They didn’t know how but that is not necessary. Their faith was an act of their intellect assenting/agreeing to a truth beyond their grasp. They DECIDED to have faith in Jesus. Our will is involved in our faith in Jesus Christ. Something else that is essential is also needed to have faith in something that is beyond our grasp. That is the grace of God. If we are to have faith in Jesus, to decide and to move our wills to prompt our intellect to believe in a divine truth, then we need to cooperate with God’s grace to move us to that belief, that faith. The synagogue official and the woman with hemorrhage did cooperate with God’s grace. They did submit their wills to God’s grace to move their minds to believe that Jesus could cure the hemorrhage and resurrect the daughter. The Nazoreans did not. They refused to believe. They refused to submit their wills to God’s grace to move their minds to belief that Jesus was MORE THAN only a carpenter and only the son of Mary. The Nazoreans fulfilled what God said to Ezekiel about the Israelites: they are “a rebellious house.” They are “rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their fathers have revolted against me to this very day”(Ezek 2:3).
We love our freedom and freedom is good when it is exercised wisely. But if it is used rebelliously, it hurts us. St. Mark writes that Jesus “…could work no miracle there, apart from curing a few who were sick by laying hands on them, so much did their lack of faith distress him”(Mark 6:5). He could not work miracles that He wanted to work for them. Christ’s power to work miracles is unlimited but faith is expected for the exercise of this power.
Faith is defined in the Catholic Church as the act of our minds assenting/agreeing to a divine truth. Our will moves our minds to accept that divine, supernatural truth and our will is moved by God’s grace. God’s grace, which prompts our will to move our minds to believe, is itself supernatural and a free gift.
So what must we know? That Jesus Christ wants us to have faith in Him; to trust Him. And we can have this faith, by our decision and our cooperation. What must we do? Pray to Jesus to deepen and to strengthen our faith and our willingness to cooperate with God’s grace in order to believe and have faith. Our willingness to have faith in Jesus is meritorious and virtuous. Pray for the right disposition to accept God’s supernatural truths about Jesus Christ. The synagogue official and the woman with the hemorrhage did have the right disposition to have faith in Jesus. The Nazoreans did not. Why should we care? We should care because the more faith we have in Jesus Christ and His Teachings contained in His Church, THIS CATHOLIC CHURCH, the more Jesus can do with us and through us. Jesus wants to be in our midst, working through us.
February 12, 2017
October 23, 2016
October 2, 2016