GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
The 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time for Year B takes us to the story of Jesus' rejection by the people of Nazareth, of his hometown, and this story is found in Mark 6:1-6. Now before I begin, this is not a long gospel text and the reason the church selects it for the day, as will become apparent in just a moment, is to focus on the theme of the rejection of Jesus as a prophet, that the prophet is not accepted in his own town. However, in my experience when this particular gospel comes up on the lectionary, that central theme of being rejected as a prophet frequently can be eclipsed by the appearance of the brothers of Jesus: James, Joseph, Simon and Judas — or Jude you can see it translated either way. And I know I’ve had this experience for myself sitting in the pew, when I hear about the brothers of Jesus, I hear them mentioned, what I start wondering about is well wait, who are these guys, what's going on here? So in the video for today what I’m going to do is focus on both aspects. I want to look briefly at the theme of Jesus' identity as a prophet but then I also want to make sure I address the question that a lot of people are probably going to have in their minds, at the back of their minds at least, as to who are the brothers of Jesus and what is their identity. So let’s just read through the text with both those questions in mind. Mark 6:1-6 says this:
He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. 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! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. 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." And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.
Alright, end of the gospel. Okay, I wanna bracket for a minute the whole question of the identity of the brothers of Jesus, just hold on to that, we’ll come back to that in a moment. I want to first focus on the central theme of what's taking place here. The first is the setting and that is Jesus coming “to his own country.” The literal Greek here patrída
just means his fatherland, it means the place from which he hailed, his hometown, which as we know from elsewhere in the gospels is of course the city of Nazareth. So he's come back to Nazareth, he’s come back to his hometown and he is going to the local synagogue in Nazareth in order to teach and to preach. And if you recall from parallels with this text, like in the Gospel of Luke...
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
...commentators on Paul have been fascinated by this thorn in the flesh, because Paul says that he asks God three times to take it away from him. So it’s obviously serious, it was painful, and it was something that Paul wanted to be delivered from. And yet, three times God refused him. Christ refused him and then uttered these powerful and beautiful words:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
I think that’s one of the reasons this passage is given to us, because that is such a … first of all, it’s one of the few words of Jesus that are outside of the Gospel. We don’t get many words of the risen Christ, and whenever the risen Christ speaks, we want to pay attention. So this is a fairly unique passage, not just in the New Testament, but especially in the letters of Paul. The risen Christ speaks. And it also reveals to us that for Paul, he doesn’t boast in his power; he boasts in his weakness:
...for when I am weak, then I am strong.
So that is a very paradoxical but also very essential message for any Christian. Life in Christ is not a walk in the park. It’s not… at the end of the day, for Paul, it’s not ultimately characterized by extraordinary visions and glorious consolations. Life in Christ in this world means sharing in the cross. As Paul said in Romans 8, we will be glorified with Him provided that we suffer with Him. So Paul always brings it back to the suffering. The question is, what is the nature of this suffering? And so I just want to walk you through three major suggestions in the history of interpretation.
So the first thing I’ll say — let me start by saying that the Church has no doctrine about the thorn in the flesh. As far as I know, the magisterium has never ruled on what Paul meant, never given any definitive interpretation to the thorn in the flesh. So we’re just speculating here, but we’re going to speculate with the saints and hear what they had to say about it. So there are three major options in the history of interpretation.
Option number one: the thorn in the flesh is a metaphor for Paul’s opponents. It’s a metaphor for the suffering Paul experienced from the opponents that he was fighting against — the false apostles — who were badmouthing him, gossiping about him, criticizing him, questioning him in the Church at Corinth. And if you’ve ever had a thorn in your finger or in your foot or something like that, the pain doesn’t go away, right? It’s constant. Until you pull it out, it’s going to aggravate you. So St. John Chrysostom, for example, in the 4th century, said that the thorn in the flesh was the suffering that Paul underwent at the hand of:
...“all the adversaries of the word.”
So in other words, his opponents were the cause of his suffering. Now the strength of this interpretation is that Paul, when he mentions the thorn in the flesh, he also calls it “a messenger of Satan” sent to harass him. Sure enough, early in 2 Corinthians, Paul describes the false apostles in 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 as servants of Satan.
So if you read 2 Corinthians 12 in light of 2 Corinthians 11, you could make the case that the messenger from Satan that Paul is describing here, the thorn in his flesh, is one of these false apostles who’s been opposing him, causing him problems, persecuting him, and criticizing him. Paul has asked God to eliminate these opponents, and He’s left them there.
The weakness of this particular interpretation (of Paul’s opponents) is that it seems to leave unexplained the image of a thorn in the flesh, which again, although flesh can sometimes point to the fallen world in Paul, it also points to the suffering human body, the flesh.
So the second major interpretation that people have suggested over the centuries — in addition to Paul’s opponents...
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