Year B Proper 9 Mark 6
The Gospel is about mission. St. Mark has a way of zeroing in on the basics. He's very brief and to the point. Let's get the picture. Jesus sets up a "pilot test" project. He wants to test how well his brand new on-the-job trainees can take instructions and make them work. In this Gospel we see him giving them a lesson on some very basic matters. I will use three key words to highlight his work plan: Excess, Time and Respond. In the simplest terms, the basics are: avoid Excesses, use Time wisely, and Respond, don't react, to each new challenge.
I suggest that these basics will work for you too, any time and any place: at work, in the classroom, on a hike or vacation or fishing trip. They will work when you are at lunch with your best client. And they will work when you are on your most promising date. Here's what Jesus does. He divides the Twelve into visitation teams of two's. He sends them down the highways, byways, alleys and lanes. Actually, this is a short journey in a familiar environment. It is intended as a kind of "appetizer" for longer and more arduous journeys they will take later. But listen how direct and to the point his instruction is...
- Avoid Excesses
- Use Time Wisely
- Respond, Don't React, to Each New Challenge.
Nobody Is Too Big to Fail. Nobody Is Too Small to Prevail.
Say the word, and everyone, everywhere knows the story.
Whether you know the name because you saw the movie, or you know the name because you spent the bulk of your life in the twentieth century, you still know the name. "Titanic" means huge, gargantuan, immense. The word "Titanic," which rhymes with "gigantic," brings visions of unstoppable power, immovable force, impenetrable resistance.
The "Titanic" really set the tone for the next hundred years, when 100 million people would be killed in the bloodiest century on record. In that single ship, the most advanced engineering, the heights of luxury and lavish design, the cutting edge of ingenuity . . . were combined and epitomized. There was nothing greater, or grander, than the "Titanic."
And she sank on her maiden voyage.
The epitome of progress was destroyed by a big chunk of hard, blue water: an iceberg.
Today, our twenty-first century "Titanics" have different names, and more subtle sinkings. Here are the names of some 21st century "Titanics:" General Motors. Shearson Lehman. FreddieMac. Fannie Mae. Chrysler.
So many of us put so much of ourselves and so much of our livelihoods "aboard" these "Titanics." Why? We were convinced that they were far "too big to fail."
But eventually the icebergs came.
Nothing . . .
No one . . .
No business . . .
No nation . . .
No ideology . . .
Nothing is . . . "too big to fail." No matter how large, no matter how powerful, companies that are poorly run, inexpertly handled, extravagantly over-spent: they will fail.
Egyptian Dynasties, Roman Imperialism, Charlemagne's Rule, the Spanish conquests, Louis 14th, Great Britain's "Empire of the Sun," the "Age of America" - all have beginnings and endings. History gives us no example of any nation or company who climb to the top of the heap and stay there forever.
The true downside of Incarnation is Limitation. That is why Jesus' ministry and message were not about up and down, success or failure, winning or losing. Fittingly, as one both fully human and fully divine, Jesus got to taste the raw flavor of failure at the very onset of his public ministry. Returning to his hometown of Nazareth Jesus got hit upside the face with the failure of familiarity.
How could Jesus have anything profound or inspired to offer the people of Nazareth when they had seen him running down the streets with a droopy diaper?
How could the "son of Mary," one of apparently questionable parentage and no social standing, be a possible messiah?
How could a mere "tekton", a stone-mason, a metal worker, a wood carver, a day laborer, claim any authority to speak God's word with divine insight?
And yet he did. Jesus returned to Nazareth. Jesus made a point of going home and facing the ultimate test - the home crowd. He knew the expected consequences. He knew the rumors of rejection, that "familiarity breeds contempt." But mostly he knew Nazareth needed the word of God, and he needed to offer the face of God to them first. He longed to give back to them the words of repentance, the sprit of forgiveness, the face of truth, the unction and function of blessing.
But Nazareth could not hear...