Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Memorial of don Andrea Santoro, a Roman priest killed in Trebisonda in Turkey

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Mark 6, 1-6

Leaving that district, he went to his home town, and his disciples accompanied him.

With the coming of the Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, 'Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him?

This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?' And they would not accept him.

And Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is despised only in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house';

and he could work no miracle there, except that he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them.

He was amazed at their lack of faith. He made a tour round the villages, teaching.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Jesus goes back to Nazareth. His fame was spread well beyond his native region to Jerusalem. Many had flocked to hear him. Although they had known him well, all present were surprised by his words and they asked him a reasonable question, one that ought to have opened them up to faith: "Where did this man get all of this?" If only they had remembered the ancient words spoken to Moses-"The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet" (Deut 18:15)-they would have welcomed not only his words, but also Jesus himself as God’s envoy. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of Nazareth focused only on his ordinary character. They could not imagine someone like himself as God’s envoy. They thought that a prophet ought to have extraordinary features and miraculous characteristics, or at least show signs of human strength and power.
Instead, Jesus presented himself as a normal person. Besides, they all knew that he had come from a modest background: "Is not this the carpenter?" they said to each other. Being a carpenter did not lend one to having any particular status. In the Book of Sirach we read: "Yet they are not sought out for the council of the people nor do they attain eminence in the public assembly. They do not sit in the judge’s seat, nor do they understand the decisions of the courts; they cannot expound discipline or judgement, and they are not found among the rulers. But they maintain the fabric of the world, and their concern is for the exercise of their trade" (38:32-34). Jesus came from a normal family, neither rich nor destitute, that did not seem to enjoy any particular esteem from the inhabitants of Nazareth: "Is not this the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" the audience in the synagogue continued asking each other. In the end, there was absolutely nothing about Jesus that distinguished himself from them. They recognized him for certain as wise and as one who was able to heal, but the real question was that they could not accept that he was speaking to them with an authority over their lives and their behaviours. This is why their marvel turned quickly to scandal. "And they took offence as him," the evangelist adds. And what seemed to be a triumph became a complete failure.
But what is the scandal? The inhabitants of Nazareth, we could say, were proud of having a famous fellow inhabitant. He was the pride of the village for his passionate oratory, for his performing of miracles and for having brought recognition to their village. However, there was one thing they could not stand: that a man like himself, who all knew very well, would have authority over them-that is, to ask in God’s name for a change in their life, heart and feelings. They could not accept this from one of themselves. And yet this is the scandal of the incarnation: God acts through a human being, with all of his limits and the fragility of his body. God does not use extraordinary people, but instead rather everyday people; he does not present himself with wonders or extravagant words, but rather with the simplicity of the Gospel language and with concrete gestures of charity. The Gospel preached and charity lived out are the ordinary signs of God’s extraordinary presence in history. The apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians: "For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. ... God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are" (1 Cor 1:22-25.27-28).
We all know well how little we have accepted this Evangelical logic into our common mentality to which we all belong. Jesus experienced this directly in Nazareth as he said with bitterness, "Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house." If the Gospels could speak, without a doubt they would lament about the loneliness to which they are often relegated and accuse us, we who are "at home" with it, for the many times that we push it to the margins of our lives, muting it so that it will not speak to us and perform its works. The people of God, the prophets, know this very well. "Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land!", Jeremiah cries out (15:10). Ezekiel, too, as we read in the first reading, anticipates the same drama: "I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me." Just like Jesus, they, too, must admit the failure on which their words may fall. However, the Lord adds: "Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them." God is faithful, always. The Word is never silent and the Gospel will always be preached. Whoever welcomes it and puts it into practice will be saved.
Whoever behaves like the inhabitants of Nazareth-that is, whoever does not accept Jesus’ authority over his or her life-impedes the Lord’s work. It is written that in Nazareth Jesus was not able to perform miracles. It is not that he did not want to, but "he could not." His fellow villagers wanted him to perform miracles, but they did not understand that it was not about performing miracles or magic at the service of his fame. The miracle is God’s response to those who extend their hand to ask for help. No one of them extended their hand. If anything, they all advanced their pretences. This is not how to encounter the Lord. God does not listen to the proud. He turns his gaze rather to the humble and poor, to the sick and the needy. Indeed Jesus was able to heal just a few sick people in Nazareth: those who asked for help when he passed by. Blessed are we if, tearing ourselves away from the mindset of the Nazarenes in that synagogue, we put ourselves next to those sick who were standing outside and who asked for help from the young prophet passing by.