4th July, 2021

Jesus preaching in the synagogue - photo: Gustavo Krajl

Jesus teaching in the synagogue – painting hanging in the Synagogue Church in Nazareth – Photo: Gustavo Krajl

Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Personally, I have never had any problem with faith in Jesus Christ. From the very beginning, and as long as I can remember – thanks to my parents, grandparents, priests and many other people – I have always believed in Him very strongly and I have always been very proud of my Catholic faith. However – as a priest – I have met and still do meet many people who find it difficult to believe in, or accept Jesus Christ.

About such or similar people we also heard in today’s Gospel, who – at some point – were astonished when they heard Jesus’ teaching, but finally… “they didn’t accept Him”. As we can assume, all these people knew God of the Old Testament and perhaps also believed in Him – since they came to the synagogue to pray. We can assume that they knew Him as the one who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and then as the one who appeared with great power when – as we remember from the book of Exodus – freed the Israelites from the power of Pharaoh in Egypt and then made a covenant with them and then gave them the ten commandments. Moreover, this God who – at some stage – revealed himself to the Chosen People, was a very distant God. It was a God that could not be seen or reached in any way or touched by anyone. As we remember – mainly from the Book of Exodus – He was a very active and powerful throughout the history of Israel, but at the same time he was very distant and very different from an ordinary human being.

However, this God who came to us as Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago, is someone very different, someone who is very close to us, and – as we know from all the Gospels describing His life and mission – has always been very human. Let’s see that all those people from today’s Gospel scene, they knew Jesus very well, they knew all his relatives, his friends, they remembered him growing up as a child and then as a boy playing with his peers, and no wonder that they all were very surprised when at some point the same adult man began to teach something very unusual, and then began to prove that he was more than just an ordinary human being. This is the carpenter – they said – surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us? And they would not accept him.

I think this particular faith, that God comes to us in Jesus Christ can be also something difficult for many modern people and perhaps for some of us. Also, for those who say, “I believe in God – He surely exists – there must be someone who is great and good, and who has created this beautiful whole world around us in his great wisdom.” But how difficult it is at times to believe that the same God can be very close to us, that he can really be present in the community of the Church, that He is really present in the Eucharist, that He comes to us in such a small piece of bread and in a few drops of wine at every Mass. How difficult it is sometimes to accept and believe that the same God is so human and so close in Jesus Christ.

There is one more thing that – in my opinion – made it difficult for people to accept Jesus as the promised Messiah. I’m sure we all remember this particular gospel scene when Jesus spoke to the Pharisees who were shocked to see Him sitting between tax collectors and sinners and sharing a meal with them. Jesus said to them more or less such words: Try to understand what it means: I want mercy rather than sacrifice. As we remember from the Old Testament, people used to worship God in many different ways, but mainly by praying to him, by listening to his Word, by obeying his commands and by offering him various sacrifices in the Temple. Jesus, however – from the very beginning of his mission – tried to teach and show them a completely different, much deeper way of worship. Moreover, He teaches us – also today – that the essence of our worship is not what we can give God, even if they are the most precious gifts or sacrifices, but the essence of our worship is also our love, our relationship to our brothers and sisters, to our neighbours. Everything that happens between us in our families, in our communities, in our parish, in our homes and wherever we are sent to go and preach the Good News after Mass. This is the essence of our faith, this is the essence of our worship, and this is what surely pleases God the most.

Maybe today – when we ponder this gospel about all these people of Nazareth, about Jesus’ colleagues, friends, neighbours who – as we heard – found it difficult to accept Him as a prophet and messiah – we can ask ourselves about our personal faith and relationship to Jesus. Do we really believe in Him and do we really trust Him? And if so, let us ask one more question: Is our faith expressed only in our prayers, only in a church, or also through our relationships, through our love, kindness and forgiveness. This is why Jesus came to us, and this is why He became one of us, so that – thanks to Him and in Him – we too may become close to each other.

Fr Gregory