The power of the word ‘no’
One of the realities of life is the presence of rejection. At some point, everyone will encounter a “no” at work, at home or in the world. Today’s reading gives biblical examples of expecting and accepting rejection and persevering despite the obstacles.
‘A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.’ (Mk 6:4)
How do you deal with rejection?
How do you react to challenging messages and recommendations?
What can you do to overcome obstacles?
Ezekiel, Paul and Jesus all encountered hostility, particularly when they gave messages that were critical and difficult for people to accept. In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel is called while living during the Babylonian exile. God tells him to ready himself to deliver messages to people who have rebelled, warning Ezekiel that they would be “hard of face and obstinate of heart.” Despite the likely rejection, Ezekiel is still called to preach and teach.
God sends Ezekiel knowing that he would face rejection, and Ezekiel delivers his prophecies knowing the tough road ahead. In the second reading from 2 Corinthians, Paul too speaks of the challenges he faced, refering to “a thorn in the flesh…an angel of Satan.” This hardship could refer to various opponents or adversaries Paul encountered or possibly physical or mental challenges. Paul considers these hardships worth enduring in his ministry for the sake of Christ. Paul, like Ezekiel, accepts and recognizes the challenging but important work that he is called to do. As many of us struggle today with a variety of burdens and barriers, we can find examples of perseverance in today’s readings.
Similarly, the Gospel reading, from Mark, depicts Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth. As Jesus taught in the synagogue, people wondered aloud about his abilities and authority. They knew his family background, and some questioned his ministry, saying his actions were inconsistent with his upbringing and familial connections. In response to these naysayers, Jesus offers proverbial wisdom about prophets not being accepted in their homes. This is not the first time Jesus faced scrutiny and opposition while at home. Earlier in the Gospel, people think he is insane (Mk 3:21). In today’s reading, Jesus appears to be at peace with the idea that his teachings may be rejected but is still amazed at the unbelief in his community.
The Gospel includes a notable detail regarding what the people’s unbelief means for their lives—they do not reap as many benefits as other communities. While he was in Nazareth, Jesus performed only a few healings. Matthew’s Gospel states more explicitly why this is the case: “He did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith” (Mt 13:58). Both Evangelists highlight that faith is required to receive blessings. This assertion builds on the Gospels we have encountered over the past few weeks, which highlight faith in connection to Jesus’ miraculous deeds.
As we inevitably face rejection, we are reminded today to maintain our tenacity and perseverance. The readings call us to consider and focus on the matters that we can control.
Moreover, today’s readings can inspire us to heed the words of others, even if they are challenges to our status quo.