• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place.”

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 48(47):10-11 — “Your merciful love, O God, we have received in the midst of Your temple. Your praise, O God, like Your name, reaches the ends of the earth; Your right and is filled with saving justice.”

First Reading: Zec 9:9-10 — “See, your king comes to you humbly.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 12-14 — “I will praise Your name forever, my king and my God.”

Second Reading: Rom 8:9, 11-13 — “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Alleluia: Lk 4:18 — “Alleluia, alleluia. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Mk 6:1-6 — “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 34(33):9 — “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed the man who seeks refuge in Him.”

In Philadelphia, 245 years ago, 56 courageous individuals penned their signatures on a document that would change the course of human events. The Declaration of Independence stated their objection to their subjection to the king of Britain. It stated their self-determination and freedom from foreign rule. This magnificent document spoke of freedom as self-evident, all being created equal, and all being endowed by their Creator with the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And to all of the legalists out there, please note ... the authors of the document recognized life from the Creator ... a clear reference to God.

We recall those great words that gave birth to our nation during this long Fourth of July holiday weekend. We celebrate our freedom from all foreign governments and political powers. We recognize our nation’s freedom as a beacon of hope for those still suffering from political oppression and tyranny. Many of us are in America because that is what our ancestors did. They came here searching for a better life. It still holds true even today.

This anniversary of independence should also include a prayer offered in thanks for all of the blessings God has bestowed on our nation and upon each one of us. We know that there is great responsibility involved in cherishing our political independence and guaranteeing its preservation. Our freedom needs to be protected from the forces that would otherwise seek to break it down, to destroy it, or attempt to cancel it. As Americans, we have the responsibility to protect and to cherish the freedoms with which we are blessed. As Christians, we have just as much an awesome responsibility to maintain the freedom that the Lord has won for us. Celebration of life from conception to natural death ... freedom to worship God ... not to cancel Him ... to learn from our history rather than eliminating those things we find painful. Please consider those things this holiday as we celebrate freedom.

Jesus’ entrance into and activities in His hometown are the subject of this weekend’s Gospel passage from Saint Mark. He had been all over the Galilean region, performing signs and doing miraculous deeds ... many had come to believe that He was a man of some power, or at least marvelously useful gifts. These same people did not necessarily know where this power came from or what authority it may have carried. They just knew Jesus as an interesting figure ... a novelty ... a man who could clearly heal others and cure disease ... and someone worthy of following. Think about it. In today’s world, advertisers would compete with each other for His attention and endorsement, so that His millions of followers would be exposed to their products.

And then Jesus enters His hometown and is “canceled.” Why? He is dismissed simply because He is the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon. He is of lowly birth and humble parentage, and the crowd of people is scandalized by Him. They took offense at Him. Despite their awareness of the wisdom that had been given Him, and the obviously mighty deeds that had been wrought by His hands, the people of His native place swelled with the sin of pride and were spiritually blinded to the Truth, lacking faith in who Jesus was. And they took offense at Him.

You know what? Here in 2021, we ought to be offended! We ought to be offended by the people of Jesus’ hometown taking offense – because how pathetic is that? Of all the proverbial hills to die on, this one regarding His place of birth and parentage is the one they chose? Come on! It’s a little self-indicting for them, isn’t it? Especially since this is their hometown, too? And if we canceled the literal Son of God 2000 years ago ... how surprised can we be that many in the world still ignore Him today, and that we have grown into a culture of canceling others for failing to meet our expectations or because we judge some aspect of the messenger more important than the truth of the message? The sin of pride reigns mightily in the world. “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” Today’s cancel culture has no idea what they’re doing in and to the United States of America and around the world.

But there is good news! The first is that, thankfully, advertisers and promoters of a cancel culture did not exist in Jesus’ time. The second, more seriously and more importantly, is that there is an antidote to this toxicity, and that is faith. Not just the faith that speaks piously of belief, and dresses in the finery of proclamations. It is a faith that is lived: with fervent dependence upon the power and authority of God ... with a heart that recognizes the futility of sin and seeks the liberation of grace – through repentance, confession, and the Eucharist. A faith that directs our every thought and deed toward the two greatest commandments ... the love of God and the love of one another. A faith that sees the image of Christ in every human being, regardless of their place of birth, their parentage, or their history. A faith that does not take offense at the Truth that Christ brings to the world. On this Independence Day 2021, along with the gift of freedom, let’s give thanks for the gift of faith that we have been given. May we use it wisely, and may each of us grow ever more conformed to Jesus Christ through it.

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