As permanent deacons in formation, we were told that once we were ordained, we would have the faculty “to preach everywhere”. We were also told that we might be assigned to a church somewhere else in the diocese. While I prayed to stay in my home parish, the one consolation in going elsewhere would be that my eloquent words would fall upon fresh ears in a new place. If I preached where everyone knew me, I could be subjected to comments like “who does he think he is?” or “isn’t he the guy that’s been coming here for years with his family?”
In the entertainment business, a performer “directly from” an engagement in another city or country has the advantage of bringing something new and fresh to a local audience. The “regular” acts run the risk of being too familiar. In the case of preaching, a similar dynamic occurs. A “guest preacher” can breathe new life into a congregation without any past history to get in the way.
In the sixth chapter of Gospel of Mark, we find Jesus encountering His kin and others from His hometown. Although He was well into his public ministry with plenty of teaching, preaching and healing “under his belt”, Jesus met resistance among his own:
“Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith. (Matthew 13:55-57)
The fact that Jesus, the Son of the living God, was not able to perform mighty works in his hometown is puzzling at first blush. It is only after reflection about how faith factors into God’s miracles that this passage makes sense. The parable of The Sower underscores the importance of “tilling the soil” of our hears in order to receive the seeds that contain the pure, living word of God:
“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:18-23)
Let us pray for the grace to live out our baptismal dignity by honoring the prophetic ministry of Christ in our lives, and the lives of others.