Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34b-37
While the first reading of today’s lectionary invites us to consider the relationship for the Jewish people between God’s blessings to them and their filial response to God’s gifts in their festivals and holy days, it is the Gospel reading that sets us to ponder the mysterious ways in which the incarnation of Jesus puts the human and divine elements of Jesus’ life into an apparent opposition with one another.
We see this contraposition throughout the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ life and mission. The divine son of God is born into a poor family, to a tradesman and his young wife. The first years of his life are lived in peril of death and in a forced exile.
Jesus spends the years of his adolescence and young adulthood in the relative quiet and anonymity of Nazareth, where he is known on as the "carpenter’s son", with his mother called "Mary", and a batch of kin, some of whose names are given, "James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas". Some of his recognized kin are women.
Then, one day in his early thirties, Jesus feels that the time has come for him to take up his divine mission, to announce in the local synagogue that the hour has come for the revelation of the nearness of the Reign of God.
These two elements of Jesus’ life, his human roots and his divine mission, will remain in contrast with one another for the remaining years of his life. In his humanity he will experience what might call his own powerlessness.
Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem because he could not move the peoples’ hearts to conversion (Lk 19, 41-44). Jesus wept over the tomb of Lazarus because he knew the pain of loss that he shared with Mary and Martha (John 11, 35). Jesus knew the abandonment that followed the dispersal of his disciples after he shared with them his promise of flesh and blood as food and drink (John 6, 66). Ultimately, Jesus came to experience the abandon and desolation of the Cross, when his humanity was being exsanguinated and suffocated on the cross (Matthew 27, 45-46).
In today’s gospel reading, it is in the context of his human origins that his friends and neighbors doubt that this could be anyone special, or gifted, or blessed. He is too human, especially when measured by their self-deprecating sense of selves. They do not believe in him because they believe so little in themselves.
A lesson for us lies in the transforming experience of our baptism (Romans 6, 1-4). Just as Jesus was raised so that his human mortality might be victorious over death (1Corinthians 15, 55-57), so do we, who are baptized into the risen Lord, no longer live with the futility of human powerlessness. We live no longer for ourselves, but for Jesus, who lives in me. If only the people of Nazareth had known what the world has come to recognize, that Jesus is the wisdom of God and the power of God (1Corinthians 1, 24). He is our brother.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P., is the director of the Missions for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.