In the Gospel today, Jesus came to his hometown and continued to teach in the synagogue that Sabbath. Many who heard him were astounded and ask 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? Mark tells us: they took offence at him. The Greek word for offence is scandalized or stumbled. The people did not question what Jesus did. They just could not accept Jesus was the one doing it. They knew this man as he was growing up. They knew his parents and his cousins. The question they had was: Why him? This shows that Jesus was so human that people could not believe he has the power to do what he did.
This is how God works, very often, in ways we do not expect.
The First Reading tells us about the difficulty of following God: that we are to expect sufferings. The author turns suffering around and tells us these are God’s discipline working in us. While sufferings are not necessarily punishment for our sin, God uses them to strengthen our faith.
Discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. God allows sufferings because they train us to cling to him. Our purpose in life is not to have a lot of money or property. It is not being famous or powerful. Our destiny is a life of union with God himself and this is possible only by living in holiness. The author tells us: pursue peace with everyone and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
When we suffer, when our plans fail, when we are disappointed with what life has thrown at us, we come to the Lord, cling to him in faith and beg him to show us who he is. Mark tells us in the Gospel that Jesus could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. Jesus did not heal a lot, not because he had no power to heal. He was not able to heal because people did not come to him because they could not accept it is Jesus who does all these.
God moves in ways we do not expect. Perhaps not in fire, not in great works of wonder, but in small things that seem too ordinary and even useless. Perhaps you think you are not worthy to come near to God, or that God does not care about you. The truth is, he cares and if you think you are not worth his attention, then think again. It is our unworthiness that makes us valuable to God.
God cares, but he can only show that if we come to him, humbly, trusting. He will not condemn us when we come to him. Jesus did not condemn those who were scandalized because of him. He only quoted Scripture in response to their stumbling. God is here before you and waits for you to come to him. And when we come to him for healing, he will touch us and not disappoint us.
St Blaise lived in the fourth century and was bishop of Sebastea. During the persecution in his town, he was sentenced to death. As he was led to jail, a mother whose son was choking on a fish bone laid the son before him and Blaise cured the son. This is why one of the ways we celebrate his feast is to have our throats blessed on this day. The mother of the son had faith that Blaise will heal her son and she was not disappointed. But she had to come to St Blaise for him to heal her son.
It is painful when we suffer. It is frustrating when we suffer. Jesus is here and he wants to show us who he is, what he can do for us. It may not be what we expect, but if it is Jesus, then that is what we seek. Come to Jesus.
Lord, open my eyes so I can see you as you are, and not as what I expect. St Blaise, Bishop and martyr, through your intercession, may God deliver me from every disease of the throat and from every other illness.