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Christopher ParkerFebruary 01, 2023
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Find today’s readings here.

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joseph 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. (Mk 6:1-6)

One of my favorite movies growing up was Dreamworks’ The Prince of Egypt. Between the music, the voice acting and the animation, it’s a must-see even if you’re not particularly interested in the story of Moses and the Exodus.

But if you are, one thing that this film tackles particularly well is the heartbreaking rift between two men raised as brothers: Moses and the Egyptian pharaoh, Rameses. There’s a scene about halfway through when Moses returns to Egypt and sees Rameses for the first time in years. The pair embrace and marvel at how much the other has grown. Yet Moses must break up the reunion by commanding his adopted brother to release the Hebrews from slavery.

The movie really conveys the difficulty of that situation, even more than the original text. We see how close these two were as boys, how they planned to rule Egypt side-by-side. Imagine being Moses, who must stand up to his constant childhood companion and eventually rain down plagues upon his people and family.

The challenge of speaking truth to those closest to us is not just a challenge for prophets, and not just a challenge for Christians.

Throughout the Bible, prophets were those who saw selfishness or hypocrisy and called it out at great personal risk. They came in times of moral need to nudge (gently or otherwise) others back onto the path of righteousness and love. But prophets were not superheroes or archangels. They were just people, who often had to look into the eyes of kings or generals or even family members and speak the uncomfortable truth.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus returns to the people for whom he probably built tables and chairs as a younger man. To them, he was just the carpenter. These friends and neighbors scoffed at him for presuming to give commands and instructions. As a result, the possibilities of his own ministry were limited.

The challenge of speaking truth to those closest to us is not just a challenge for prophets, and not just a challenge for Christians. I think many of us find that we are “not without honor except in [their] native place” if we head home for Thanksgiving. We will fail, undoubtedly, to be as outspoken and principled as we hope to be every single time. It takes bravery, and it never gets easier.

But in turn, we do have the power to listen when confronted with difficult truths. We cannot close our ears to a call for change based on where it comes from. Family, strangers, young, old—anybody could be the prophet figure, trying to lead us in a more positive direction.

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