HIDDEN (OR INACCESSIBLE) IN PLAIN SIGHT:
There have surely been many attempts to deal with pain and inflammation in human history. In 1763, the Rev. Edward Stone noted that the (white) willow tree was effective in reducing fever. The active derivative from it came to be known as (acetyl-) salicyclic acid, or what we call Aspirin today. Aspirin is probably one of the most widely used medicines in the world, but up to 1763, it was hidden in plain sight. Other medicines come from plants, like digitalis for the heart. No doubt there are other medicines in plants around us, perhaps one to deal with dread diseases for which we have no cure yet. Healing that is hidden in plain sight!
In our Gospel reading today Jesus was the power of God in the presence of the people of his home town, but somehow, they could not see or understand. God’s power in Jesus, present and obvious, was somehow hidden in plain sight; inaccessible to his townspeople.
“How can Christians think that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, the fulfillment of the Jewish religion, when the Jews themselves flatly deny it?” (Nineham, Mark p. 163.) Despite his miracles, they dismissed him as an artisan, a contractor in their town, from a humble family there. Elsewhere, we see his own family opposed him!
Notably, this passage (Mk 6:3) also refers to the brothers and sisters of Jesus. We suppose the townspeople and perhaps his own family (like we often are) were sinful or spiritually blind; and so, could not accept and receive such an ordinary figure as Jesus as God’s chosen envoy.
We prefer celebrities. All of us are blind at times. If our eyes could be opened, we could see the unknown or hidden agencies and avenues of healing all around us. “Open your ears!” is what Jesus begs us (Hymnal 1982 #536).
FAITH AS A NATURAL ATTITUDE: In our Gospel passage today, we can see that Jesus took faith in God as a natural attitude. Jesus was ‘astonished’ and pained by the absence of faith by those of his townspeople who knew him and heard him raise the dead, heal many people, walk on water. In this passage, they even admit that! (Mann AB, p. 290). This unbelief limited Jesus power (!) to help them there and then (Mk 6:5).
We can see that same kind of willfully deaf ears and blind eyes in our first reading, Ezekiel 2:1-5 which says — “Rebels who have rebelled against me…. impudent and stubborn… [who] refuse to hear.” Or in today’s Psalm 123:5, “The scorn of the indolent rich, and the derision of the proud.” And we still have it all around us in society today: willfully ignoring God; and at times willfully ignoring medical or other professional advice too.
There is the story of the person hanging on a cliff, who asked if there was anyone “up there” to help. The response from a divine voice was to let go and trust. After a few moments of silence, the person asked whether there was anyone else “up there”.
THE MISSION OF THE TWELVE: The mission charge in the gospel reading for today follows on from Mk 3:14. Jesus instructed the 12 on their urgent and extremely important mission. All four gospels speak of such a mission as this. Having heard his words and seen his miracles (Mk 4), those 12 were evidently sent like a rapidly moving action group, expecting to live off the land (and not expecting supply lines–Peake). In his fascinating book, The Rock that is Higher than I, Bill Burnett described living off the land as an escaping prisoner of war in the 1940s.
In Mark (and Matthew) Jesus had compassion on the people. (In Luke—‘welcomed’ the people). Mk 6:34: The people ‘Were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.’ This mission passage one of the gospel passages which most inspired St. Francis of Assisi.
ON GUARD AGAINST DISTRACTIONS FROM FAITH IN JESUS: What prevents us from living an ever-deepening life of faith in Jesus, which may frustrate his love for us and other people? Usually, I think, it is either distraction by the things or pleasures of this world, or else fear. We should not be distracted by pleasure, and we should not be consumed by fear.
Here is an historical fact: There were the front and rear lighthouses on Grand Island, between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, just south of the Niagara Falls. During the 19th Century those lights guided shipping past Grand Island. In the first part of the 20th Century the lights were decommissioned, and the buildings turned into a type of clubhouse.
Perhaps our home and church should be both things: both a ‘clubhouse’ as a place for rest and restoration; and also, a lighthouse, a place for neighbors to join and all gathering strength from communion with one another and also launching forward on a rescue mission to the world.
On Saturday July 11 we remember the great St Benedict of Nursia. His work built up the Benedictine order which has both gathered women and men to strengthen them spiritually, and then launched them forward on a rescue mission to the world.
Fire Stations are like that — at times a place for gathering and recreation for the firemen, but at an instant, as on September 11 2001, any fire station can become a launch pad for rescue. I am sure that ambulances are like that also. At one moment it is restful, while at the next, it is galvanized into rescue action.
ALWAYS PREPARED, ALWAYS READY: Jesus was the living presence of God’s grace in his day and place. We have been baptized, and received Holy Communion, so are we a living presence of God’s grace in our time and place.
Think about the lighthouse, the fire station and the ambulance. Let’s not be sleepy and thoughtless and unaware and miss the crucial event of human history — the meaning and importance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for every person. Any day could be our last day or the last day of someone nearby us.
Let’s all take stock. At every moment, let’s keep looking around and be alert to share God’s grace with someone else — “Publish abroad (the Redeemer’s) wonderful name” (Hymnal 1982 v. 1). Who is that person in your life? A relative, a friend, a colleague?
Like Jesus did, you and I bear God’s grace in plain sight of everyone around us. Let’s not hide God’s grace from our contemporaries. Let’s pray for God’s guidance. We and our neighbors are all thirsty for God’s grace. Let’s not hide the grace of God.