Imagine this scenario: Someone is suffering from some incurable disease. He or she has visited every doctor in the land. Granted, this is in Jesus’ time so the doctors are really not all that good. Nevertheless, each one admits there is nothing he can do for this poor patient. Finally, the person goes to Jesus. Jesus lays hands on him and nothing happens. The person remains suffering and even Jesus can not do anything for the person.
Is this what happened in today’s gospel? It is an important question because Mark tells us that Jesus could not do any miracles in his own home town. The answer is no. It is not that Jesus could do nothing for these people, it is that their hearts were closed and so they would not even dream of approaching Him. They would, as the Gospel indicates be more on the line of: “What can he do for me? Maybe if I needed a medicine cabinet, I could ask him to build me one, but he cannot heal my disease.”
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This is what happened to Jesus. It is not that his divinity could not heal them due to their lack of faith, it was their lack of faith blinded them to his divine power and they ignored him. You can also imagine that he may have gone places where there were no crowds to listen to him. His ministry bombed in this home town.
This is important because we deal with people who will pray and they feel their prayers are not answered. They will say it was because they did not have enough faith. That is not true, the fact that they prayed would give them enough faith. It is that God answered the prayers but not in ways they expected.
So it is not that people approached Jesus and his prayers failed. It is that they did not approach him.
We can ask if the same thing would happen today and the answer is not only would it happen, but it is happening.
How many people do not go to Church and one of the reasons is that they do not see the power of God. Why don’t they see the power of God? Well, the people in the Gospel did not see the power of God because they were constantly dismissing Jesus.
Let us see about today. Change the words you see in the Gospel to: “The Church is out of touch, the Church needs to update itself. Who listens to the Church today?” and “We need an Arab Spring of the Catholic Church” Spoken by a campaign leader of one our 2016 presidential candidates, who by the way lost the election including the Catholic vote.
Now let me add another voice. If Christians (which means us) lived their religion there would not be a Hindu in India.” Ghandi used to say that. Do you really believe we would have the gang problems and the drug problems people warn about if we Catholics truly lived our religion? When was the last time you heard Catholic leaders remind people that the sacrament of reconciliation is a powerful force against addiction. Hence, its basis in step 5 of the AA program. They will stand side by side with political leaders and propose programs to stop addiction not realize we have a program ourselves to stop addiction it is called the Catholic faith.
I am not discounting the other programs, but we cannot discount ours as one of a group of treatments including within the medical community that are used in conjunction.
As I said people would not approach Jesus and the same happens today. One of the great tragedies of today’s Church is the lack of understanding on prayer. Prayer is often given as an afterthought. We can teach people about dogma and rules, but St. Paul told us to pray always. Jesus prayed every morning by Himself and we get excited when we teach people to pray for a minute. The lack of teaching and understanding of prayer fosters exactly that attitude we see of people who do not encounter Christ.
Compare the idea of teaching people to pray for minute with the teaching of the Patron of our Archdiocese in Boston, and in New York by the way: St. Patrick and his Breastplate.
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
That concept of bringing Christ into every aspect of our life is central to what it means to be a Catholic. When we do that we encounter and know Christ more intimately and more powerfully.
Christ is not an afterthought, but a central aspect in all we do.
But when we look at prayer as something we do for a minute a day or when things go wrong, we miss the point. We also walk down the path of those in Jesus’ hometown that dismissed Him.
One of the greatest spiritual diseases affecting our Church today is where people put conditions on their acceptance of Christ in their lives. “I will believe in God when, the Church ordains women or updates its teachings or stops asking for money, whatever.” However, that is accepting Christ on your terms. You only accept Christ on His terms. It is then that you grow in wisdom because you realize that you dropping your terms for knowing Christ opens the door to you discovering the vastness of divine wisdom and power.
If Jesus came here today, how many people would show up. Probably the same amount who show up now, after all Christ is present here in the Eucharist. The many who were baptized into this community and no longer go to Mass do in fact weaken the parish and not just monetarily. They weaken the parish in faith and that weakens the greater community.
There is power in the faith of Christ, the power of prayer. We need to encounter Christ personally through our prayer and the sacraments to come to know this power, otherwise we become like the people of today’s gospel who had more important things to do than encounter Jesus Christ himself.