Jesus’ identity as Messiah is misunderstood by the religious leaders, by the crowds, and by his own family of origin and hometown neighbors.
Our passage concludes one portion of Mark’s Gospel and begins another portion. At the beginning of the portion devoted to the twelve we see them cast in a fairly positive light, Jesus sending them out to proclaim that all should repent. In the chapters to follow, the twelve are just as clueless as the Pharisees and the citizens of Nazareth. They do not understand Jesus as the messiah sent by God.
Much of what we hear proclaimed today has to do with hospitality, both the way we offer it and the way we receive it.
Since I was a young adult I have heard many, many people say, “The identity I worked hard to establish in school and the workplace and my community goes right out the window when I go for an extended visit to my family of origin.
All the old dynamics kick in; all the old emotional responses rear up from wherever they were hiding; I am no longer the adult I thought I was; suddenly I am 10 years old again.”
It makes me wonder if that was part of Jesus’ experience of returning to Nazareth after successfully launching his ministry in Capernaum.
For those of us who are “empty-nester” type parents it is frequently difficult to offer the same type of wide-open hospitality to our adult children as we would to other friends or even complete strangers.
We often do not even realize the “hooks” we include in our messages, the conditions we place on our affection, and the postures we assume when offering hospitality to those nearest and dearest to us.
This is just one obstacle to true hospitality.
Another is envy, that insidious character flaw that prompts us to denigrate another if he is getting too big for his britches or if she displays the trappings of success.
Possibly the greatest obstacle to offering and receiving hospitality is a distrust of the goodness of God.
If the God who created the universe and continues to breathe life into it is really trustworthy and is not lurking around the next corner waiting to pull the rug out from under me, then I should have little difficulty accepting the “good news” and the one who bears it, who proclaims it.
Oh sure, the proclamation may challenge me; it may force me to confront the ways that my repetitive actions and long held attitudes are not congruent with the values I espouse.
The proclamation of the good news may call me out of my comfort zone and compel me to question the culture I grew up in.
The proclamation of the good news may threaten to break shackles I have worn for a long time that I thought were my due.
The proclamation of the good news may lift a burden that I grew way too comfortable carrying around.
The proclamation of the good news may heal wounds that have festered due to fear and self-loathing.
Let us also look at hospitality from the point of view of the one seeking it.
Jesus sends out the twelve with very specific instructions or orders for what to take and not take on the missionary journey.
Jesus also gives instruction on how to behave in the village to which one is sent. The household is the base from which the apostle operates; the apostle should attach himself (or herself) to the household for the duration.
Ched Myers, in his commentary on Mark’s Gospel, entitled, Binding the Strong Man, has this to say.
There is no indication that Jesus’ “orders” are unique to this mission; they are “the way” (eis hodon) – that is, paradigmatic of discipleship lifestyle (6:8). Their narrative significance lies not in some model of heroic asceticism (which would contradict Jesus’ ambivalence toward, e.g., fasting), but in the emphasis upon the utter dependence of the disciples upon hospitality. The “apostles” (so designated for the only time in Mark upon their return from the mission in 6:30) are allowed the means of travel (staff, sandals) but not sustenance (bread, money bag and money, extra clothes). In other words, they, like Jesus who has just been renounced in his own “home”, are to take on the status of a sojourner in the land.
This makes the missionaries completely vulnerable to, and dependent upon, the hospitality extended to them, and obviously precludes them from being able to impose their views by force.
If we have really, truly, good news to proclaim to the captives, to the blind, to the sick, if the message is one of liberation, then we must carry the message as humble servants of the message.
Mark the evangelist expects his community of followers of Jesus to think of themselves as sojourners in the land.
This, in our day, is akin to saying, think of yourself as an undocumented alien, (an illegal alien in common parlance).
Think of yourself as one who is totally dependent on the hospitality of those who accept the good news.
Put aside your false sense of security that arises from whatever privileged status is ascribed to you in this society.
That status does not really belong to you; it does not really fit you as a follower of The Way.
Use the Prayer of Jesus as the model of true discipleship each day – “Give us this day our daily bread”, or as we pray it here, “Feed us today.”
This puts us in the proper frame of mind as one who seeks hospitality on the journey.
At first glance, our reading from Paul to the Church at Corinth does not have a very good fit with our other two readings.
Bear with me as I tie it in to hospitality.
Paul is in some emotional distress as writes this letter.
False apostles have made some inroads in his beloved Corinthian community.
He is attempting to make clear how his bearing of the good news differs from these false apostles for he bears the good news in a flawed vessel.
He also discloses his own vulnerability to depression; one might easily read into what he describes as a bi-polar disorder or manic-depression.
What he shares with his fellow believers is insight into God’s plan of salvation. …God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
St. Therese of Lisieux says it this way, “If you are willing to bear serenely the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter.” This is the hospitality our God seeks.
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With complete confidence in your goodness O God, we offer these prayers.
Have compassion on the homeless, helping them to find proper housing and helping us to open up our own resources to alleviate their burden, we pray …
Open the minds and hearts of elected leaders and those who wield economic power, that they will reach across partisan and short-sighted divides to bring about a fair distribution of the essentials of life, particularly fresh water and nourishing food, we pray …
For communities of faith throughout the world, and particularly this Sunday Assembly, that we will proclaim the Good News with integrity and joy, we pray…
For the Benedictine Women of Madison that they will grow in love and in numbers we pray …
For what else shall we pray?
Please speak now the names of those whose needs you carry in your hearts. For these and all listed in our book of intentions, we pray …
Holy One, Abba, help us to see ourselves as you see us, help us to love as you love us, help us to accept one another as your manifestation of yourself. We ask all these prayers in Jesus’ name.