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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – 7 July 2024

Today’s gospel describes what happened when Jesus went home to preach the gospel. Put simply, it was a disaster. The people recognised Jesus. They recognised Jesus’ wisdom. They even recognised that Jesus worked miracles. In sum, they managed to recognise a great deal of truth in Jesus’ preaching. However, instead of accepting Jesus’ message because of that evidence the people rejected Jesus because they thought they knew him. The people recognised Christ as the son of a carpenter and then they concluded that they shouldn’t listen to him. Perhaps they thought Jesus should have stuck to woodwork. Who knows. Whatever the case they couldn’t or wouldn’t get past what they already knew about Christ to what else there might be to learn from him.

Even his own extended family join in the rejection. Hence Our Lord’s somewhat bitter cry about the rejection of prophets by hometown and kin. We are also told Jesus is ‘amazed’ by the Nazarenes’ lack of faith. We are meant to appreciate, I think, the personal desolation which rejection brings him. Mark wants to stress Christ’s fidelity to the Father and to us despite all that he suffers so keenly at our hands. Mark stresses how much it hurt.

Why? Perhaps because what looks so much like failure, and what costs so much in desolation, is also the glory of an unbroken love, the glory which becomes manifest in the resurrection. Despite that rejection, which was to be repeated many times in his public ministry, Christ still chose to die for love of them. Love triumphs over abandonment in the forgiveness of sin.

That matters for us. We can’t expect to do better than Jesus. It belongs to his and our prophetic office to proclaim a Gospel that may cause offence, may be rejected. We too, may find ourselves rejected, even by family and friends, for our faith. This pattern of preaching met by unbelief is, it seems, part of what disciples must expect in every age. We have to learn a certain resilience. God will do what God wants with our service or witness – as He does what He wants with Ezekiel’s preaching in our first reading. That witness isn’t always measured by perceptible results. What matters is that we find the strength from God to continue, and to trust.

Because, at the heart of this Gospel is hope. Our own failings and failures are real enough, our broken relationships, faltering friendships. There’s hope because our messy reality is not the end of the story. We can dare to accept failure and live through it, even learn from it, because God in Christ has been there too. And just as the apparent failure of Jesus’s preaching in his hometown did not turn him from his mission, nor should our failures daunt us. Because we hope and trust that the love of God can conquer all, even rejection and disbelief.

Fr Chris Denham

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