Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Birth of St. Mary, The Theotokos
Volume 8 No. 498 September 8, 2018
II. Lectionary Reflections

Following a Hometown Boy: Reflections on Mark 6:1-6

by Prof. Alyce McKenzie

Gospel: Mark 6:1-6

I picture Jesus' hometown family and friends squirming in their synagogue seats and craning their necks to see if he's coming up the center aisle as they wait for his arrival that day. The hometown boy is coming to bring the morning message. He's bringing his entourage with him. As his family and former neighbors sit waiting, I bet they were preparing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they were saying to each other, "Even if he's not that good a speaker, we need to encourage him, because he's just getting started." His home townies don't know who they're waiting for. They think they're waiting for the boy who knows how to make the best shelves in town. They think they're waiting for the familiar sibling of James, Joses, Judas, Simon, and his sisters (unnamed!). They think they're waiting for the obedient son of Mary.

They're prepared to excuse the shortcomings of someone safe and familiar who is from where they live and known by all of them.

In C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan, the Lion King of Narnia, represents a Christ figure. Lucy, conversing with Mr. Beaver, is curious about Aslan. She has never seen him, but has heard that he is "on the move," and anticipates meeting him. "Is he safe?" she asks.

"Who said anything about being safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Course he's not safe, but he's good. He's the King I tell you."

Jesus is "on the move." And his hometown folks can't wait to see him. They want him to be both safe and good for their economy. The town sign maker is yawning; he stayed up late last night finishing the banner that is now draped across the entry gate to town that says "Welcome to Nazareth, home of Jesus." The City Council members on the front row are all abuzz. They can't wait to show him the drawings for his Ministry Center to be built on some prime real estate just south of town. They've made him a website and set up a blog and a twitter account for him.

Now here he is striding down the aisle of the synagogue.

Mark, with his usual taciturnity, simply tells us that "he began to teach." Luke 4:16-30 gives us a much fuller account of what he said, why they responded as they did, and what they then tried to do. Luke has him reading from Isaiah 61:1-2, strongly implying a Messianic identity, and then offering a litany of non-Jews who had more faith than his hometown congregation. No surprise that this lovely homecoming ends not with a strawberry festival in the grove, but with a mass attempt to hurl the hometown boy off a cliff.

Mark's account intrigues me as a student of human motivation. His hometown folks are, I would suspect, willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as long as he doesn't say anything unexpected or challenging. They would not be inclined to doubt the source of his teachings if he had not made them feel uncomfortable. Their response to whatever it was he said reflects a combination of belief and incredulity. They seem to believe that what he said was of divine origin ("What is this wisdom that has been given to him?"), yet they are unable to believe that such a great gift would be given to someone they know and whose family they know.

Here are the kinds of thoughts that may have been going through their minds.

How dare he have something we don't?
How could something this powerful have grown up in our midst and we not know about it?
How dare God send such astounding teachings and do such deeds of power this close to home through someone we know?

All these guesses have a common focus on themselves. When we are focused on ourselves, on maintaining our superiority and control over our surroundings and others, we are not open to the truth God seeks to speak to us, sometimes through people we know and in places we thought we knew like the back of our hand.

I guess there is a reason that prophets are never honored in their hometown and among their own kin and in their own houses.

As a parent of young adults I try hard not to think of them as children. I still weigh in now and then with unsolicited and sometimes, solicited, advice. It is free at least. But I try to learn from them too. They have taught me a great deal already, and I have a feeling we're just getting started with the lessons!

As a teacher, I try hard not to think of those I've taught as my perpetual students. They move on and, while I'm happy to offer sermon feedback, encouragement, and resource advice when asked, I try to be open to learning from them as well.

I like to think that if I had been one of Jesus' hometown folks, I would have heard him gladly and changed my ways in any way he thought I should. But I guess I'll never know what I would have done then. The question is, what am I going to do now?

There was once a young American who got a job as a tour guide for church groups from the U.S. touring the Holy Land. He would stand at the front of the bus with the microphone and point out the sights as the bus rolled through this town and that. He studied hard to learn every place name, every historical detail, and every geographical factoid. He wanted to be prepared for any and every question. He lived in fear of the question to which he would have no answer. One time, as the tour bus was going by Nazareth, he pointed out the window and said, "This may well be the hill from which the people of Nazareth in Luke chapter 4 tried to cast Jesus off." At this an old Catholic priest who had seemed to be sleeping at the back of the bus, raised his head and asked, "What is it called?" The young man searched his memory wildly for a moment and then blurted out "It's called the 'Mount of Jumpification."

Jesus is good but not safe. Not everyone wants to take the leap of faith to believe he is the Son of God and then to follow him along the hard and narrow path of discipleship depicted by Mark. Not everyone is willing to allow Jesus to work deeds of power through them (6:5). Many refuse to welcome and hear him (6:11).

We all have our own internal "Mount of Jumpification." Either we hurl Jesus over it or we follow him with a leap of faith.

The hometown boy is on the move. He is good but not safe. And he is coming to bring the message. The question is, are we ready to hear it and act on it?

Source: Edgy Exegesis, Patheos

There's No Shepherd like the Good Shepherd- Reflection on Mat 18:12-14
Gospel: Matthew 18:12-14

Jesus said to his disciples: "What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost."

Introductory Prayer:

Dear Jesus, my Lord and God, I open my heart to your infinite love. I wish to listen and respond to the inspirations that you wish to give me this morning. I believe in you. I hope in you. I love you. Lord, you are my shepherd and the true meaning of my life.


Jesus, Good Shepherd, give me the grace to open my heart to your mercy.

1. Not All Shepherds Are the Same:

In today's society, the image of the shepherd doesn't say as much as it did in Jesus' time. Psalm 23 was probably one of Christ's favorite psalms, for he uses the image of the shepherd frequently: "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want." Sheep have a trusting relationship with their shepherd. Instinctively they know that the shepherd will care for them. Christ is our shepherd who loves us. In our lives, other people or material possessions can seem to promise to bring us happiness, causing us to follow after them as if they were our shepherd. But when the real trial comes, they abandon us just as a hired hand leaves the sheep when the wolf appears. Let us renew our commitment to Christ, the Good Shepherd, since he is the true shepherd of our souls.

2. Searching Out the Lost Sheep:

In every group of animals there is at least one that seems to get distracted and eventually lost. In our lives we, too, can get distracted and stray from the security of Christ and his way. Sin is what separates us from Christ. If we are not careful, we can be easily seduced by the world, by the fascination of material goods or pleasures, and then mistakenly place our security in them. Then, when we experience the emptiness and spiritual hunger that comes from wandering from the Good Shepherd, we need only to recall that he is waiting for us, his wayward sheep, to carry us back into the safety of his fold. It is comforting and heartening to know that he longs for us to be reconciled with him, just as a shepherd goes out in search of the lost sheep.

3. Let the Celebration Begin!

Anyone who has children and has temporarily "lost" one of them can empathize with the joy God experiences when one of us is found once again and reunited with him. We may try to outdo him in love and generosity, but that cannot happen. His love surpasses all our imagining. Today, let us take a moment to talk to God about our state in life and resolve to let him be actively present in our everyday living. Could there be any better way to prepare for Christmas than to open the doors of our hearts? Christ is there, knocking, asking to be allowed inside so he can heal us and make us whole again. It's almost shocking to discover that we can please him simply by turning to him and letting him pick us up from where we've fallen and restore us to full friendship with him. Shouldn't we permit Our Lord that pleasure, especially when the only cost is admitting our tremendous need for him, confessing our sins and inviting him back into our hearts, where he belongs?

Conversation with Christ:

Lord, I know my countless falls provide me countless occasions to encounter you as the Good Shepherd, since without fail you come to pick me up again. Instead of wallowing in a sterile self-pity at the misery of my sinfulness, I intend to delight more in your tender mercy. I know this trusting attitude will please you.


Each time I fall today, I will get back up again immediately, because I will have confidence in my Good Shepherd's loving mercy.

Source: Regnum Christi


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