Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Gospel for Wednesday, 4th Week in Ordinary Time

Optional Memorial: St Blase, Bishop and Martyr
Optional Memorial: St Ansgar, Bishop

From: Mark 6:1-6

No Prophet Is Honored In His Own Country
[1] He (Jesus) went away from there and came to His own country; and His disciples followed Him. [2] And on the Sabbath He began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard Him were astonished saying, "Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to Him? What mighty works are wrought by His hands! [3] Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judah and Simon, and are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him. [4] And Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." [5] And He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands upon a few sick people and healed them. [6] And He marvelled because of their unbelief.

1-3. Jesus is here described by His occupation and by the fact that He is the son of Mary. Does this indicate that St. Joseph is dead already? We do not know, but it is likely. In any event, the description is worth underlining: in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke we are told of the virginal conception of Jesus. St. Mark's Gospel does not deal with our Lord's infancy, but there may be an allusion here to His virginal conception and birth, in His being described as "the son of Mary."

"Joseph, caring for the Child as he had been commanded, made Jesus a craftsman, transmitting his own professional skill to him. So the neighbors of Nazareth will call Jesus both "faber" and "fabri filius": the craftsman and the son of the craftsman" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 55). This message of the Gospel reminds us that our vocation to work is not marginal to God's plans.

"The truth that by means of work man participates in the activity of God Himself, his Creator, was 'given particular prominence by Jesus Christ'--the Jesus at whom many of His first listeners in Nazareth 'were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to Him?... Is not this the carpenter?'" (Mark 6:23). For Jesus not only proclaimed but first and foremost fulfilled by His deeds the 'Gospel', the word of eternal Wisdom, that had been entrusted to Him. Therefore this was also 'the gospel of work', because 'He who proclaimed it was Himself a man of work', a craftsman like Joseph of Nazareth (cf. Matthew 13:55). And if we do not find in His words a special command to work--but rather on one occasion a prohibition against too much anxiety about work and life--(Matthew 6:25-34)--at the same time the eloquence of the life of Christ is unequivocal: He belongs to the `working world', He has appreciation and respect for human work. It can indeed be said the 'He looks with love upon human work' and the different forms that it takes, seeing in each one of these forms a particular facet of man's likeness with God, the Creator and Father" (John Paul II, "Laborem Exercens", 26).

St. Mark mentions by name a number of brothers of Jesus, and refers in general to His sisters. But the word "brother" does not necessarily mean son of the same parents. It can also indicate other degrees of relationship--cousins, nephews, etc. Thus in Genesis 13:8 and 14:14 and 16 Lot is called the brother of Abraham (translated as "kinsman" in RSV), whereas we know that he was Abraham's nephew, the son of Abraham's brother Haran. The same is true of Laban, who is called the brother of Jacob (Genesis 29:15) although he was his mother's brother (Genesis 29:15); there are other instances: cf. 1 Chronicles 23:21-22, etc. This confusion is due to the poverty of Hebrew and Aramaic language: in the absence of distinct terms, the same word, brother, is used to designate different degrees of relationship.

From other Gospel passages we know that James and Joses, who are mentioned here, were sons of Mary of Clophas (John 19:25). We know less about Judas and Simon: it seems that they are the Apostles Simon the Cananaean (Matthew 10:4) and Judas the son of James (Luke 6:16), the author of the Catholic Epistle, in which he describes himself as "brother" of James. In any event, although James, Simon and Judas are referred to as brothers of Jesus, it is nowhere said they were "sons of Mary"--which would have been the natural thing if they had been our Lord's brothers in the strict sense. Jesus always appears as an only son: to the people of Nazareth, He is "the son of Mary" (Matthew 13:55). When He was dying Jesus entrusted His mother to St. John (cf. John 19:26-27), which shows that Mary had no other children. To this is added the constant belief of the Church, which regards Mary as the ever-virgin: "a perfect virgin before, while, and forever after she gave birth" (Paul IV, "Cum Quorumdam").

5-6. Jesus worked no miracles here: not because He was unable to do so, but as punishment for the unbelief of the townspeople. God wants man to use the grace offered him, so that, by cooperating with grace, he become disposed to receive further graces. As St. Augustine neatly puts it, "He who made you without your own self, will not justify you without yourself" ("Sermon" 169).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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