On a Prophet in His Own Land

«Christ’s miracles are not exhibitions of power but signs of God’s love»

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 9, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

[Immediately following the Holy Father’s opening salutation, the Dresden Boys’ Choir began singing.]

We thank the children of Dresden who sang so well.

I would like briefly to reflect on the Gospel of this Sunday, a text in which we find the celebrated dictum “Nemo propheta in patria,” that is, no prophet is gladly accepted among his own people, who watched him grow up (cf. Mark 6:4). In effect, after Jesus left Nazareth after about 30 years and had already for some time been preaching and healing elsewhere, he returned to his town and began to teach in the synagogue. His fellow townsmen “were stupefied” by his wisdom and, knowing him as “Mary’s son,” the “carpenter” who had lived with them, instead of welcoming him with faith they were scandalized by him (cf. Mark 6:2-3).

This is an understandable reaction since familiarity on a human level makes it hard to go further and open up to the divine dimension. It is difficult for them to believe that this carpenter would be the Son of God. Jesus himself brings up the example of the prophets of Israel, who in their own country were objects of scorn, and he identifies with them. Because of this spiritual closedness, in Nazareth Jesus was “not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them (Mark 6:5). In fact, Christ’s miracles are not exhibitions of power but signs of God’s love, which actualizes itself where it meets man’s faith, it is a reciprocity. Origen writes: “In the same way that some bodies are attracted to each other, as the magnet to iron … so also faith exerts an attraction on divine power” (Commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, 10, 19).

It seems therefore that Jesus is able to have some success in Nazareth despite the poor reception he receives. However, at the end of the account, we find an observation that states the contrary. The evangelist writes that Jesus “marveled at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:6). Jesus’ surprise corresponds to the stupor of his fellow townsmen, who are scandalized. Even Jesus is in a certain sense scandalized! Although he knows that no prophet is gladly accepted in his homeland, he regards the closure of his people’s hearts as strange, inscrutable: how is it possible that they do not recognize the light of Truth? Why do they not open themselves to the goodness of God who wanted to share our humanity? In effect, the man Jesus of Nazareth is the transparency of God, in him God lives fully. And while we, we too, always seek other signs, other mighty deeds, we do not see that he is the true Lord, God made flesh, he is the greatest miracle of the universe: all of God’s love enclosed within a human heart, in the countenance of a man.

The Virgin Mary is she who truly understood this reality, blessed because she believed (cf. Luke 1:45). Mary is not scandalized by her Son: her wonder over him is full of faith, full of love and joy, in seeing him at the same time so human and so divine. Let us therefore learn from her, our Mother in the faith, to recognize the perfect revelation of God in the humanity of Christ.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted in various languages the pilgrims gathered at the apostolic palace at Castel Gandolfo. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters, I am happy to welcome you here to Castel Gandolfo, where I arrived a few days ago. I cordially greet the local community and hope that all families will be able to have time to relax and renew themselves physically and spiritually.

[In English he said:]

I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer, including the participants in the International Course for Seminary Formators organized by the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum. In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us that if we live with an open and simple heart, nourished by true faith, we can recognize the presence of God in our lives and follow his holy will. I wish you a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo and a blessed Sunday!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday, a good week. All the best! Have a good Sunday!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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