The Podcast can be found here.
Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
In a trial, a Southern small-town prosecuting attorney called his first witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand. He approached her and asked, 'Mrs. Jones, do you know me?'
She responded, 'Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams. I've known you since you were a boy, and frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you're a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you'll never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.'
The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, 'Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?'
She again replied, 'Why yes, I do. I've known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can't build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him.'
The defense attorney nearly died.
The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice, said, 'If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I'll send you both to the electric chair.'
In our Gospel reading today.. although Jesus was without sin, he experienced a similar response from the people of his hometown... It is clear that they had no idea who he was, but they sure thought they did... “What do you mean he’s a prophet? I changed his diapers for crying out loud.”.. “Didn’t Mary get pregnant with him out of wedlock - claimed it was the Holy Spirit - please!”.. “His dad is only a carpenter.”.. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”.. “Just look at his brothers and sisters.”
Because of their unbelief, Jesus was not able to do much for them except heal a few sick people. However, when he left that place, he sent out his disciples into the world.. giving them the instruction to take nothing with them, but to trust that God would provide. In addition he told them if they are welcomed in a place then to stay in that place, but if not.. “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them."
To “shake the dust off your feet” is an expression that has several nuances. For starters it can mean to show a sign of separation – If you don’t believe what we have to say, then we want no part of you. Second, it can mean, we tried to put you on the right path, but you refused to believe, therefore, we are not responsible for what happens to you. But a third way of looking at it has to do with how the disciples were to emotionally respond… Take for example an event from Luke’s Gospel.. Scripture says, as Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, he “sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village…. What we learned earlier on in Mark’s Gospel was that because of this event, Jesus referred to James and John as the “Sons of Thunder.”.. it wasn’t necessarily a compliment… So.. to shake the dust off your feet in this situation, means.. if the people don’t listen to you as you are going, don’t become angry.. don’t hold a grudge.. just keep doing what it is I have commanded you to do.
These are two seemingly separate events, but they are joined together for a reason... In the first, the people of Jesus’ hometown didn’t believe him.. so they ridiculed him.. “We know who you are.. you’re just a carpenter.”… Jesus was showing his disciples that there would be many who did not believe for various reasons and that since he was ridiculed, the disciples could also expect to be ridiculed, yet the second event tells the disciples.. you will be ridiculed, but when you are, shake the dust from your feet… Show them that you have tried to lead them to righteousness, but at the same time – let it go. Your job is not to judge their unbelief.. or to call down thunder.. or to be angry – Your one job is to proclaim the gospel.
It was the case with Jesus, with his disciples, with Christians throughout the ages.. therefore, it will be true for you as well…. We would like to think that people don’t really know us for who we are… but like Grandma Jones knew those two lawyers.. many folks actually know you. They watched you grow up. They know your virtues and they know your sins.. it’s just that most folks – unlike Grandma Jones – are too afraid to say anything... But whether they say anything or not - they know... which generally means that when they discover that you are a Christian, they will have a pretty good laugh at your expense.
I remember when I first joined Facebook.. that wonderful social media web site - You go online and you enter all this information about who you are, what you are doing, where you work, went to school, etc. Then you post your profile and start looking for friends. Let me tell you, they come out of the woodwork. With some it’s great to hook up again.. friends from every stage of your life.. High school.. college.. work.. all of it. However, for some of the ones that requested to be my “friend” on Facebook I kind of get a chuckle and want to ask, “You couldn’t stand me in high school, so why do you want to be my friend now?”...
At any rate.. I wasn’t always the saint you see standing before you today.. I had my moments (years?).. So, when I joined Facebook I could only imagine the thoughts that were popping into folk’s heads when they discovered that I was a priest. “Wasn’t he the class clown?”... “Didn’t he drink a lot?”.. “Weren’t his parents divorced?”.. “Don’t you remember when he was with all those different women.. not all of them single?”.. “Are you kidding me - he was an ass.. a wisenheimer.. a this.. a that.. and the other... and now he’s a priest?... If the church is letting the likes of him in, then I don’t want a thing to do with it.”… How should I respond to that? Get angry? Cuss them out in some stupid online tirade? Call down fire from heaven? Should I quit the priesthood (don’t answer that)?... Or should I just keep doing what it is God has called me to? I could argue until I’m blue in the face and still not convince anyone that God had accepted me… that I was trying to walk the path of righteousness. So instead of being angry and arguing with them… I’ll just show them… I’ll just prove it to them.
Remember in John’s Gospel when the religious leaders came to Jesus and questioned his authority? He could not convince them who he was with his words, so he said to them... “Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
With this in mind and reflecting on this verse, St. Josemaria said – “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” This said of Jesus, may very well be said of you, with a bit of amazement and a bit of mockery, when you really decide to carry out the will of God, to be an instrument: “But isn’t this the one….?” --His suggestion— Say nothing, and let your works confirm your mission.
Many will find reasons for not believing the Gospel message.. and the one reason that will sting the most is you.. that is, they won’t believe because they think they know you and therefore for them, you discredit the message.. If God has let you in, then the entire thing has to be a joke.. but remember what Jesus says, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”.. and shake the dust from your feet. Let it go and persevere in your faithfulness and proclaim the faith that is in you… Your life is no reason for people not to believe.. Your life is a testimony as to why they should.
Let us pray… O Lord and Giver of Life, Your grace has achieved for us all that You had spoken and promised. Grant us access to the place of Your peace. For You are our Life Giver, You are our Consoler, You are our life Remedy, You are our Standard of Victory... Blessed are we, O Lord, because we have known You!... Blessed are we, because we have believed in You!... Blessed are we, because we bear Your wounds and the sign of Your Blood on our countenances!... Blessed are we, because You are our great hope!... Blessed are we, because You are our God forever!