|Sunday Gospel||Mark 6:1-6|
Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
'when your heart gets broken you begin to see the cracks in everything. Tragedy may want to harden us but the mission is to never let it'
This Sunday we are hosting the Annual Shrewsbury Diocese APF Mass. It celebrates the support that the community of Shrewsbury gives to the APF; missionaries in parts of the world where to be a Christian, let alone Catholic, is a journey of conversion, courage, faith and the inspiring energy of the Holy Spirit.
The Missionaries who follow their vocation under hostile and challenging regimes live out the radical truth of the Gospel every day of their ministry; their focus has moved from the 'saving of souls' to living the 'Christ experience' in everything they do - in community, in eucharist, in living and praying.
It is true to say that when these Missionaries retire - they don't retire - they commute. Finding ways of supporting their ministry to return as volunteers; to stay involved with personal projects. They don't find 'coming home' comfortable - they have got used to having sand in their shoes. And they are not always comfortable to be around.
Missionaries tend to have a lot of 'prophet' in their character. Prophets are not fortune tellers; their gift is paying attention; the unfavourable side of the gift is that reading the 'signs of the times' means needing to do something about it.
For friends and family, this is far more acceptable when the prophet is elsewhere. It is important to many people to feel in control of their lives; they don't need their motives questioned or their consciences pricked especially by one of their own. No-one appreciates their friend, cousin, next-door-neighbour telling them what is missing in their lives; the mirror is too honest that close to home.
That's what the world does; setting out what is acceptable and giving out authority on its own terms. To belong means playing the game, knowing the rules and knowing your place.
If we take following Jesus seriously it will be hard. His rules are few but insistent and give no mind to hierarchy. We will be criticised as an amateur, a do-gooder, a busybody. But when we are called, we cannot deny it and we have to do, tell, be – no matter what.
I was asked recently where this unworldly attitude came from? Why anyone would continually 'give' themselves away despite the criticism, exclusion and the discomfort of not fitting in?
A week and a Gospel later I would say not only should we give ourselves away but that what we give away should be the very best of ourselves. And to do that, means to find the voice; the place and the people where we belong. That place may still have its challenges and its discomforts - may have more.
But if we are called then we will be missionaries, pilgrims and prophets in other lands.
'a church, taking on the mission of Jesus, does not judge humanity, but loves it'