Mark 6 1-6
He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”
But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “He’s just a carpenter – Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?” They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further.
Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honour in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.” Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there – he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all. He couldn’t get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching.
This Gospel always reminds me of the work of the many missionary groups who follow their vocation under hostile and challenging regimes live out the radical truth of the Gospel every day of their ministry; their focus has moved from the ‘saving of souls’ to living the ‘Christ experience’ in everything they do – in community, in Eucharist, in living and praying.
It is true to say that when these missionaries retire – they don’t retire – they commute. Finding ways of supporting their ministry to return as volunteers; to stay involved with personal projects. And they are not always comfortable to be around. Missionaries tend to have a lot of ‘prophet’ in their character. Prophets are not fortune tellers; their gift is paying attention; the unfavourable side of the gift is that reading the ‘signs of the times’ means needing to do something about it.
For friends and family, this is far more acceptable when the prophet is elsewhere. It is important to many people to feel in control of their lives; they don’t need their motives questioned or their consciences pricked especially by one of their own.
If we take following Jesus seriously it will be hard. His rules are few but insistent and give no mind to what other people say. We may be criticised as an amateur, a do-gooder, a busybody. But when we are called, we cannot deny it and we have to do, tell, be – no matter what.