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Homily for Wednesday of the 4th Wk in Ordinary Time, 31 January 2024, Mk 6:1-6
Mark says the people of Nazareth were “amazed” about the way Jesus preached in their synagogue. They seemed to have been actually impressed at the start. But as soon as they started asking questions like “Where did he get all this? What kind of wisdom.. ? What mighty deeds…?“ pretty soon their amazement was replaced by CONTEMPT.
I remember reading a story about a job interviewee who initially impressed the interviewers with the way he answered their questions. But as soon as they checked his profile and asked, “Where did he get his degree? What is his area of specialization? What is his family background?” their reaction was quickly replaced by contempt. Sometimes we think a personal profile or a curriculum vitae helps the interviewers in job interviews. Well, it should; but much also depends on the attitude of the person who is using them. It will not help if the interviewers will immediately allow their perception to be colored by what they read in the interviewee’s biodata and prevent them from taking his application seriously.
We have a word for it in English—bias, or prejudice. I think we are more familiar with the word bias; it has almost become an acceptable word in Pinoy Taglish—as in “Napaka-biased mo naman.” Prejudice actually means the same thing. It has to do with judging before the facts are even laid out before you. And so a biased view is a prejudgment. In Tagalog we would call it a “paunang hatol.” It is the opposite of understanding, which is pag-unawa. They say the root word of UNAWA means “awa ang inuuna, hindi paghatol.”
This is one instance where the English expression “Familiarity breeds contempt” does apply very well. Normally, what we know ABOUT a person should help us in truly knowing that person. Well, not always. Sometimes what we think we already know about the person can hinder us from truly trying to understand the person better. It can reinforce prejudice, which becomes an obstacle to truly knowing. And this is what amazes Jesus about his kinsfolk in Nazareth.
Take note, Mark does not say “He did not perform any mighty deed there.” Rather, he said, “He WAS NOT ABLE TO perform any mighty deed there.” Meaning, he tried, but he failed. And he quickly adds a remark to soften the impact of the embarrassing situation “except for a few sick people whom he had laid hands on and cured.” I can relate well with that; I mean the idea of a messiah who does not succeed all the time. Sometimes he tries but he fails—like David does in our first reading.
The Gospel sort of rubs in the humanity of Jesus. The “lack of faith” of his kababayans in Nazareth upsets him. It prevents him from allowing the power of God to be made manifest through him. No wonder he had to withdraw every now and then to keep himself spiritually grounded and not allow himself to be unsettled or rendered powerless by people’s reactions to him. Remember that passage where he reprimanded James and John for getting so upset about the inhospitality of the Samaritans, they wanted to rain down fire on them? By simply telling them to go by another route, Jesus was telling them not to allow the faithlessness of people to get into their system.