Sunday Reflection: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
(Ez 2:2-5 / 2 Cor 12:7-10 / Mk 6:1-6)
The first time I heard of the Oriental saying, "When the student is ready, the teacher arrives", the first thought that came to me was that, a teacher can never be late. I thought it was about the teacher having the discretion as to when he or she would arrive to begin class. But then, I started to think again...
The saying is not about the teacher. It's about the student. It's about the student attaining to a sufficient level of readiness to engage oneself in the learning process to be facilitated by the teacher.
In a way, one can also say, when the community is ready, the prophet arrives. Unless the community has attained the right disposition for the preaching of the prophet, unless the people of the community have opened their minds and hearts to the words of the prophet, the prophet, the spokesperson of God, can never evangelize fully to the community.
Therein lies the difficulty in being a teacher or prophet. After all the hard work in preparation, after all the commitment and passion for ministry, a prophet's hands are tied--so to speak--by the chains of the community's readiness to listen to him.
In the Gospel reading (Mk 6:1-6), Jesus returned to his hometown. It was a very risky move. He only left it, a few years before. Yet, in the places where he has been, there were only praise and admiration that followed him, and also remarkable news of healing and accounts of driving out demons from the possessed. In a short span of time he has attained the status of celebrity among townsfolk everywhere, and notoriety among the Pharisees and other religious leaders.
And now, he decides to return to his hometown at the head of a group of disciples. When Sabbath came and he began to teach in the synagogue, how was he received by his own townspeople?
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.
Following all the questions of the people, the last sentence summarized what they were feeling inside, what they truly had in their hearts--they took offense at him. They were offended, annoyed and resentful that a person, a commoner, someone of their equal, or perhaps they even thought someone beneath their level, would dare preach to them with such lofty and wise words. Yes, they took offense at him. For them, Jesus is not a notch above them. He is just one of them--came from them, among them--and hence, has no right to be a teacher, a prophet to them.
Jesus would have loved that his own people would benefit much from what wisdom he has to share. Jesus would have loved that his own people would share in the great things that the Almighty can work through him, the miracles, the healings, the great deeds he has done everywhere else. But the gift he offers to them is refused. He as a prophet to them is refused. The wise counsels are refused.... all because the people would rather close their ears to his preaching. All because the townsfolk would rather close their eyes to the wonders he makes. All because they would rather close their hearts to the presence of God in the person before them.
Amidst the many things that he can do to them, Jesus felt powerless.... because of the people's lack of faith in him, the people's lack of trust in him.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Perhaps the teacher has yet to come, because I am not yet ready as a student? Perhaps the prophet hasn't arrived yet, because we, as a community, are not yet disposed to his preaching? Perhaps God is still in wait to encounter us, because we haven't prepared ourselves to encounter his greatness.... greatness already present in our midst?