A Prophet without honour

Gospel Mark 6:1-6 

“A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relatives and in his own house.”

‘Who does he think he is?’

This remark is often made when a person of a poor background has become successful in life and issues a statement of some kind. People who know such a person very well usually react in the following manner – His family was very poor and he used to eat in our house, listen to what he is telling us today.

Jesus experiences a similar thing in our Gospel today:

  • Jesus goes back to His hometown Nazareth accompanied by His disciples.
  • As was the right of any devout Jew, He gave the homily in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. The town’s people were amazed. They are astonished at the wisdom with which He speaks, and the power of the miracles they heard He was performing.
  • They are even more amazed because they think they know who Jesus is. He is the Carpenter, the son of Mary and Joseph, and they know all His relatives. They grew up with Him. And because they think they know Him very well, they refuse to accept Him.
  • They do not hear His message because Jesus is too familiar to them.

Dear friends, we are not much different from the people of Nazareth. The same thing can happen to us all the time. God is constantly speaking to us through the people we know, through things that happen to us, through situations in which we find ourselves. Again and again we do not recognise His voice, His message, because He is speaking through someone we know very well, or someone we don’t like, or someone who is a total stranger or foreigner.

Because of their blindness, we are told that Jesus was not able to perform miracles there. Sometimes we also block God’s love and healing power because we refuse to recognise Him in a particular person or situation. Yet it was precisely through this person or experience He was trying to reach us.

Jesus now makes a sad comment on his town’s people. “A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relatives and in his own house.”

While people in other places greeted Jesus with enthusiasm and believed in His words, His own town’s people, His own family, wrote Him off and treated Him with disdain. It is an experience all prophets must be ready for. A prophet is a person who has been commissioned to proclaim God’s message, to call people to accept God’s Word, to urge them to change their lives and base them on truth and love. Prophets both in the Old Testament and the New Testament have met with resistance, hostility and even violent deaths. A perfect example is the prophet Ezekiel who speaks to us in the First Reading.

He has been called to proclaim God’s message to His people. God does not promise him an easy task. “I am sending you to the Israelites, to the rebels who have turned against Me… Whether they listen or not, this set of rebels shall know there is prophet among them.” It is strange that messages of truth, love, justice, freedom and peace arouse such opposition, hostility, hatred and violence.

But it is happening all the time. Because in many parts of the world, words like truth, justice, and freedom are seen as dangerous and threatening. And strangely some people do not want to hear about them. Many Christians have died for their faith in these enlightened and civilised times. Martin Luther King died for promoting the equality of all human beings irrespective of race. Mahatma Gandhi died because as a Hindu he was friendly with Muslims. Bishop Oscar Romero died because he denounced the exploitation of the poor. The list could go on and on…

Brothers and sisters, each of us because of our Baptism has been called to be a prophet. We have all been called to spread the message of the Gospel in our families, in our work places, among our friends, in our society. No matter what, we have to be ready to proclaim and defend the truth, love, justice, freedom, people’s rights and dignity as we all as denouncing bribery and corruption which is the order of the day!