July 4, 2021 at Saint Peter and Saint William Churches in Naples, FL
Ezekiel 2, 2-5 + Psalm 123+ 2 Corinthians 12, 7-10 + Mark 6, 1-6
Telling the difference between good and evil is serious and difficult challenge to many of us. We have all been conditioned by artists and movies to think and expect evil to look terrible and frightening like monsters ugly and deformed becoming the stuff of nightmares. If that was really the case, we would all be safe since no one in their right mind would have anything to do with evil. But the truth is, evil is anything but frightening and ugly. It is, on the contrary, usually quite nice looking, polished, and attractive.
All of us know evil. It is not specific or individual sins that make a person evil. We all sin, but we are not all evil. It is the refusal to acknowledge sinful behavior that evil people. It is that repeated, consistent pattern with no thought or desire to change that leads to evil. Evil people are to be pitied, not hated. They are always sad, lonely people hiding a great and terrible emptiness known to only a few.
When Jesus got to Nazareth in today’s Gospel, those in that synagogue had to make a choice between good and evil. They made the wrong choice. They rejected goodness. That rejection was not from a personality clash, immaturity, or some political difference. It came from the faith and commitment of Jesus. It was easier for them to do nothing than to do something. It was easier for them to be negative than positive. It was easier to be destructive rather than creative and imagine some new vision of the Kingdom of God and a new concept of a Messiah.
His rejection was also due to the growing opposition from authorities who so inflamed the townspeople that they wanted to kill him. So, he moved his mother and his base of operation to Capernaum for safety. He worked from there rather than Nazareth. So, returning there was risky. Yet, I think, he loved his old friends and home-town neighbors.
They thought he was not worthy of a hearing because he was just a guy who made things with his hands. He was a carpenter. Some of them, just like some people today, think that people who work like that are not capable of anything intellectual or really great.
His rejection was also due to the fact that they were close to him. They knew who he was and they knew his whole clan. By mentioning his family members, they probably intended an insult. Assuming that his family was not held in high regard, they ask a good question: “Where did he get all of this?” They come to the wrong conclusion. The result is resentment, and therein lies a source of evil. Their minds are made up and their hearts are closed. They were offended by goodness itself, and thereby revealed their own self-hatred. They could not believe that from them, from Nazareth, something this good could rise up.
The truth is that he is just too ordinary for them. He is just a young man who grew up there, worked with his father, became restless and left town to discover himself like so many others had done before him. They just could not believe that out of an ordinary life anything extra ordinary could possibly happen. They could not grasp that God works in ordinary ways day in and day out, and neither can we sometimes. The result is that we often miss the hand of God at work, and sometimes even deny the possibility.
We cannot afford to make their mistakes. We need to recognize evil and choose good even when evil looks attractive, is easy, and might make us look good. We cannot afford to do nothing, to be negative, and to fail to imagine that God might actually plan to do something with plain old ordinary people like us. We cannot let resentment ever keep us from seeing goodness in all God’s people.
My friends, if our faith, our religion, our traditions are ever to thrive and have a future,
- We must do more than just belong. We must participate.
- We must do more than just care. We must help.
- We must do more than believe. We must practice
- We must do more than be fair. We must be kind
- We must do more than forgive. We must love.
- We must do more than live. We must grow.
- We must do more than be friendly. We must be friends.
When we embrace this truth and this way of life, Jesus Christ will be able to work great wonders here in this very place.