Read Mark 6:1-6
Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. Read More…
Meet Sister Jane Dwyer
Sister Jane Dwyer is a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur who was born in Brighton, MA on June 15, 1940. Read More…
Today´s Gospel brings us a disturbing contradiction. The text says that Jesus is rejected, not only by the Roman and Jewish powers, but by his very own relatives. And it is not the first time. In Mark 3, 20-21 the text says that his relatives declare he is “out of his mind.” Jesus has returned to Nazareth after a whirlwind of cures, simple yet unsettling reflections among the people, amazing feats controlling storms and winds, as well as confrontations with the local temple powers. Word among the powerful already circulates that he is a blasphemer and according to law must die. Jesus comes home with his disciples and prays in the synagogue on the Sabbath. His exact words and reflections are not ours to know, but yes, the reactions of his “relatives.” Why are they affronted by his wisdom? Why cannot a carpenter whose hands and heart work miracles with wood, not work other kinds of miracles with those same hands and heart? What is there in Jesus´ coming home and being who he is that scandalizes to the point of rejection? Who are the relatives that reject Jesus, take offense at him: his mother, “brothers and cousins” who were among the disciples, John the Baptist? If it is not those who walked with him, then who were the “other relatives?” And why were they so irritated and rejecting? It is revealing that a simple carpenter with 12 unschooled fishermen could create such impact, generate so much anger and resistance so quickly. And again, we ask why? His message echoed in the hearts and lived experience of his people. They flocked around him. Those in power, or in hope of power, fear for their future.
In the Amazon region in the north of Brazil, we live and work among the rural farming communities. These communities here are not filled with conflict and rejection of one another. Our experience is that those living in poverty need one another, depend on one another, are anxious to grow together with their friends and neighbors. The sharing of their hard-earned wisdom is a means of communal survival. They are communal by nature and through need. Alone they die; they do not have access to conventional medicine in its various forms. However these people of indigenous and African roots, understand the forest and its incredible pharmaceutical strengths. Teas, syrups, and various natural herbal medicines appear as needed, and these with constant visits full of concern and counsel. As local stores rarely exist, the community is where lending and sharing happen normally and naturally. When exaggeration and exploitation seem to be occurring, the community has ways to deal with them, without ruptures and condemnations. Communities organize to help one another when families are unable to weed or harvest their crops because of illness or other difficulties. A day together in the fields is a welcome chance to talk, gather news and just be, work and eat together. This is what life is about. There is a communal clarity as to the essentials for a life well lived even for those living in poverty. Schools, roads, electricity, technical assistance are won through organized community pressure. Their strength is in their organization, capacity for dialogue, prioritizing issues and unity.
When there is rejection in the communities, it is because the people sense they have been betrayed. Proud, arrogant and deceptive behavior isolate, as do authoritarian and dictatorial styles of leadership. Exploiting others, destroying family unity, diminishing or belittling community members are not tolerated. The reverenced and fostered values are sharing, solidarity, compassion, celebrating together, mutual help as well as living community priorities in such a way as to know what can be let go and what needs to confronted.
Rural and peripheral urban communities seem very similar today to those in the Gospel texts. Their realities are similar: oppression, repression, concentration of land and wealth, tyrannical and corrupt “authorities” in political, economic and religious institutions. In the name of “peace and justice,” and those living in poverty are downtrodden, diminished, untouchable, ignorant, impure. Yet these vulnerable people survive. Jesus says they will. And Jesus says that it is the family who survives: (Mk 3, 31-35) those who are open to, accept, and live God´s will, God´s message. Those who profoundly understand that peace and justice are not about winning or losing, are those who believe, open up to one another, share who they are and all that they have.
It is family who hears, ponders and lives God´s word. It is family who does not reject. What happens in this Gospel is what happens today among those living in poverty and those who walk with them and live among them. The people living in basic Christian communities threaten those in power. Their way of being, living and walking with one another reveals the tyranny, the corruption, the lies and abuse of power around them. These “powerful authorities” while appearing to “applaud and lift up” local leadership, most of all destroy the people´s faith in their leaders, in themselves and in their way of life. People in these basic Christian communities are free and welcoming, not easily intimidated or deceived. They understand through faith and experience that miracles with wood, land, food, sickness, survival, human rights and dignity, family and community life continue to happen through their communal hands and hearts.