Mark 6;1-4. Fourthteen Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 8th, 2018
Today, again, as throughout his Gospel, St. Mark wants to teach us to have faith in Jesus, a living and active faith. As our soul vivifies our body, so too our faith life has to vivify, permeate our daily life, in all that we say, think and do. And so, our readings speak to us of a serious obstacle to true faith-the obstacle of complacency. The dictionary defines complacency as being satisfied in one’s self in an unreflective way and without being aware of the possible dangers this smugness causes. It is a form of self-righteousness in which one doesn’t even bother to see areas where he or she needs to improve.
This message of lack of faith caused by complacency is clearly given both in our first reading and our Gospel. In our reading from the book of Ezekiel, we find the Israelites have been sent into exile because of their unfaithfulness to God, because of their complacency. Before their exile from their homeland, they had the great temple and the presence of the Word of God in it and so life was good. They had a strong walled city &God was with them, what could possibly go wrong.
What went wrong was they fell into complacency because they failed to allow their faith in God to permeate their lives, and so began to become blind and even to turn away from their love of God; they turned to love of things and self instead. In their prosperity and luxury, they had become complacent and self-righteous. They were like a husband who becomes complacent with the love of his life and so in his complacency fails to see his relationship with his wife slipping away.
God in His mercy, however, wanted to show Israel how far their hearts had strayed from a correct relationship with Him, in order that they could repent and turn back to Him. So, He sent prophet after prophet to turn the hearts of the people back—but the people still, were content with their lack luster relationship with the True God—they instead wanted to love and follow God on their own terms, without any discomfort or sacrifice…they wanted to worshiped God only to feel good and even to be entertained and so they failed to adore Him in Spirit and in Truth, yet all the while thinking they were “good people.”
So they find themselves in exile; but even worse, they are exiled from the Word of God, the presence of God in the temple. They have lost not only the great temple, but that special presence of God available to them in the temple. Still, they fail to see their faults. They didn’t have a living faith in God in good times and now that the bad times have arrived, they lose any faith they might have had—“how could God allow this to happen to us.” They failed to see that their exile was a trial that God was allowing to shake them out of their complacency. But still their hearts continue to rebel against God and so they ignore the words of His prophet Ezekial, so Ezekial says to them, Thus says the Lord God! “And whether they heed or resist, for they are a rebellious house- they shall know that a prophet has been among them.”
St. Mark reports to us the account of Jesus’ return to His home in Nazareth. A similar situation existed there as in the time of Ezekiel-complacency. The extended family of Jesus was there along with his townsfolk. These cousins and townsfolks of Jesus knew Him only in a human way. They knew his mother Mary and believed Jesus was just an ordinary carpenter, just an ordinary cousin and neighbor- so they were thinking, “who does he think he is doing all of these miracles and teaching with such wisdom? We know him, we have Him all figured out. They just could not, would not, believe it was Jesus who was doing and teaching such divine things. Because they themselves had grown complacent, they failed to see His divinity. God was standing right before them and they were completely unaware of it and so Jesus was astounded at their lack of faith.
In these two lessons today, complacency is the common obstacle to the people’s faith, both the Israelites in exile and the extended family of Jesus had grown complacent in their faith. The routine of daily life, coupled with a weak faith produced this complacency. This is always a temptation for the People of God. Complacency then, can be a problem for us today as well, both as individuals and as a church family. We can say to ourselves, “I go to Church on Sundays, my life is comfortable.” And so, we can fail to see that we need to believe more deeply- we can fail to see that we are becoming too attached and too comfortable with the things of the world, with the way things are now. We can take the attitude of the Israelites and say, “I have peace and prosperity now, I don’t care what will happen tomorrow.” We can say, we have the Church and her priests to give us the sacraments and we can attend Mass any time we wish and so our faith life is comfortable. We can wind up falling into a heartless routine and so fail to believe in God fully, fail to love Him with our whole hearts, minds and wills; we can begin to think it doesn’t even matter if I go to Holy Mass every Sunday, God still loves me regardless.
With regards to the Holy Eucharist, we too can become complacent and like Jesus relatives, fail to see God literally standing before us! We can think we have the Eucharist and so our faith life is comfortable, and like the Israelites who had the temple, begin to think there is no chance of losing this presence of the Word of God among us. Complacency here again, is an obstacle to our faith in the divinity of Jesus and that this divine Jesus is still present among us with His human body and blood, his human heart in the Eucharist—
What people have their god as close to Him as Our God, the True God is to us in the Holy Eucharist! Complacency leads to a lack of faith that the Eucharist is Jesus, true God and true man still among us. If we, His own People, don’t believe and love Jesus in the Eucharist, He is a prefect gentleman and will not stay where He is not worshiped and adore. Like the Israelites, He will allow His people to be exiled from His Eucharistic Presence available the temple of the Church.
The cure for complacency is to make an all-out effort to grow in our faith. There are two ways we can grow in our faith. The first and most common way is by study. Study is a sure way we can grow stronger in our faith- maybe it is only studying a paragraph in the Holy Scriptures or the Catechism, but we must make the effort to expand our knowledge of the faith. To grow in knowledge of our faith actually helps us in the second way we can grow in our faith, and that way is through trials.
Accepting the trials, the crosses in our lives with the help of God’s grace is one of the greatest ways for us to grow in our faith. God in His mercy actually allows us to be tested with these crosses in order to awaken us from our complacency. Sometimes He even allows us to feel like He is distant from us and has abandoned us. This is also true in our trials in believing Jesus is really in the Eucharist.
The difficulty and struggle to believe that He is really there in the little white host, far from being detrimental, can actually increase our faith if we turn to God for strength, “God I believe, help my unbelief.” In our reading from St. Paul, we read where St. Paul prayed for the trials in his life be taken away. God’s response is clear, “my grace is sufficient for you.” Trials, both in our daily lives and in our lives of faith have a way of strengthening our faith. Again, the relationship between faith life and daily life is like the relationship between body and soul both are intimately and substantially connected.
As we approach the Holy Altar to receive Jesus, let us beg Him to strengthen our faith that the little white host we receive is really Him. Let us beg Him to shake us from our complacency and so receive Him in manner that expresses our belief that, “it is the Lord that we are dealing with,” in order that we don’t lose this true presence of the Word of God become flesh among us. With our faith strong in Him we will love him and believe in him whether we are in good times or in bad, easy times or times of trial and even in our great weakness! Let us turn to our Lady for her help as well. Hail Mary, Mother of our Faith, Pray for us. Amen.