And they would not accept him - 14th Sunday Ordinary Time (B)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > And they would not accept him - 14th Sunday Ordinary Time (B)

The Gospel today is most apt at this present time.

Jesus, we are told by St Matthew, returned to his home town of Nazareth and preached in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. The people, we are told, were astonished at what he said, but then they turned to doubt – “where did this man get all this?” The doubt, the questioning, then led to rejection. We are told: “they would not accept him”.

We can only wonder about how this happened. Why was it that people from his own town allowed scepticism and doubt to shape their acceptance of his teaching? We know that generally the crowds were spellbound by the teaching of Jesus. He spoke in a way that inspired and encouraged them. He gave them new hope. He spoke in such a way that their hearts were touched. They felt his compassion. Their hearts were lightened and refreshed.

So what went wrong in Nazareth?

Jesus’ comment on what happened is interesting: “A prophet is only despised in his own country among his own relations and in his own house”. This comment has significance for me personally at this time.

Of course the experience of rejection was not unfamiliar to Jesus. It seems that opposition always accompanied him in one form or another. The Pharisees and the Scribes seemed always intent on catching him out. They were quick to find fault. It seems that they watched him closely and as soon as he said or did something that they did not approve of they challenged him.

There were even times when his close followers came to question him and his message. This is no more evident than when the Lord spoke about the Eucharist: “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, lives in me and I in him”. Those listening said that this was intolerable language and they chose to no longer walk with him. Such was the level of rejection to his teaching that Jesus turned to his closest disciples and asked: “will you also go away?”

Throughout his public ministry Jesus experienced resistance and steady opposition to his words and actions.
Included among the beatitudes is one which says, “Blessed are they who are persecuted in the cause of right”. He himself experienced this persecution and he knew that his disciples would experience the same.

Jesus knew that his disciples would find no ready acceptance from the world around them. He says, "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, for I have chosen you out of the world, because of this the world hates you”. (Jn 15:18)  These are strong words. Jesus warns us that we will find no comfortable place in human society if we are faithful to him.

In another place he warned his disciples that they would be hauled before human tribunals. "You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them”. (Mk 13:9)

He warned them as well that fidelity to his teaching would mean at times that families would be divided: father against son, son against father. (see Lk 12:53)

Jesus had no illusions: “do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth, I did not come to bring peace but the sword”. (Mt 10:34) 

It is natural for us to want to find a place of peace and acceptance among our family and friends. We want to be good citizens and be well accepted in our society. We do not set out to be antagonistic, but as St Peter said before the Sanhedrin, "We must obey God rather than any human authority”. (Acts 5:29)

The question of the nature of marriage is in the forefront of debate in Tasmania at the present time. The outcome in terms of federal legislation about the definition of marriage will have significant implications for the future of our society. It is most important that there be a serious public debate. People need to reflect deeply on this issue and all its implications.

For this reason following distribution at all our parishes I have asked the Principals to distribute a Pastoral Letter written by the Catholic Bishops of Australia to all parents and guardians of children attending our Catholics schools, some 12,000 families. I recommended that it be sent in a sealed envelope.

I have received many emails and personal words of support from parents. I have also received some criticisms of my action. I understand that some parents have disagreed with what I have done. I am simply fulfilling one of my roles as bishop and that is to be the official teacher of the Catholic faith in a diocese.

I present this teaching as a positive contribution to the debate as it outlines why the Church stands by the official definition of marriage as found in our laws. I have simply wished to express the teaching of the Catholic Church. The Church respects the dignity of every person. It does not condemn people. It does seek to serve people and the society by presenting its understanding of what marriage and family are intended to be. This is based on what the Sacred Scriptures teach and what has been the common understanding of humanity for millennia.

The Catholic Church stands on its belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 5 July 2015