Biblical Readings for each day's Mass,
(for the Liturgical Year 2021)

February 3 2021
Wednesday| Week 4 in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15

Trials will come but they yield spiritual fruit

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children, "My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts."

Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? Now, 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. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitteness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled.

Responsorial: Psalm 102:1-2, 13-14, 17-18

R./: The Lord's kindness is everlasting to those who fear him

My soul, give thanks to the Lord,
 all my being, bless his holy name.
 My soul, give thanks to the Lord
 and never forget all his blessings. (R./)

As a father has compassion on his sons,
 the Lord has pity on those who fear him;
 for he knows of what we are made,
 he remembers that we are dust. (R./)

But the love of the Lord is everlasting
 upon those who hold him in fear;
 his justice reaches out to children's children
 when they keep his covenant in truth. (R./)

Gospel: Mark 6:1-6

When the people of Nazareth reject Jesus he is amazed at their unbelief

Jesus left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "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. Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.


Who believes a prophet?

His village neighbours’ response to Jesus was not encouraging. What new message could he have, since he’s someone they’ve known for years? What could he know that they did not already know? They even named some relatives of Jesus, his "brothers and sisters", implying that like them, he enjoyed no special distinction. So they expected nothing new from Jesus, either. This all-too-common response illustrates the depth of the Incarnation: He became like us in everything, except sin. On the "brothers and sisters," in light of belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity, at least from the 2nd century the Church has understood them as either "cousins" or "half-siblings", children of Joseph from an earlier marriage. At the least, they were members of his extended family, and seemed no more disposed to see Jesus as special than were the other villagers.

Apart from the skepticism in the villagers’ questions, there are other vivid, typically Markan, elements in this Gospel story. "They took offence at him." Far from the admiration shown to Jesus in other episodes, as in the healing of the bleeding woman or the reviving of the daughter of Jairus, the Nazarenes are angry at his self-assurance, his conviction that he has a vision of God’s mercy to spread. Mark comments, He could do no powerful deed there. It is as though their unbelief actually blocked his miraculous power. The Gospels see  a vital link between faith and the ability to be healed.

If one is discouraged by the apparent failure of one’s efforts to share one’s faith and love with others, it is some comfort to know that this was the experience of Jesus too. The Letter to the Hebrews adds its own brand of gruff encouragement when warning the Jewish-Christian readers about the suffering and sacrifice they must bear. Trials are sent by God to test us and make us stronger, he says, so  "lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet." If we can only persevere in what God wants from us, we will not fail to obtain the grace of God.

Familiarity breeds contempt

The people of Nazareth should have recognised how God was working through Jesus in a special way. Instead, they sneered and indeed despised him. He was too familiar, too local. They knew his mother and his family. As one of their own, he was too ordinary to take seriously.  It is a classic case of familiarity breeding contempt.

We can fail to recognize the presence of God in the ordinary and the familiar. We don’t have to go long distances or witness miracles to recognise the wisdom and the power of God. It is all around us in the near and the familiar and in the ordinary, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. The Gospel invites us to see the familiar and the ordinary with new eyes. The failure of the people of Nazareth to see in this way inhibited what Jesus could do among them. Our seeing in this way gives the Lord space to work among us in new ways.