Miracles Jesus Couldn’t Do

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) – Ezekiel 2:2-5; Psalms 123:1-2, 2, 3-4; Second Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6. This series usually appears each Wednesday.

Photography © by Andy Coan

Over the last two Sundays, the gospel of Mark has been making it abundantly clear that Jesus is indeed God Almighty, ruler of the world and lord over life and death.

But this week we come to a story that leaves us scratching our heads.  Jesus goes to his own native place, and receives less than jubilant reception.  “They found him too much for them.” That may not be so surprising to those of us accustomed to family life.  But what does come as a shock are these words: “He could work no miracle there . . . so much did their lack of faith distress him.”

Wait a minute.  I thought that Jesus was God and therefore omnipotent.  Wouldn’t it be admitting that he is not God to say that he was unable to work miracles in a given place?

Hardly.  God’s exercises his power only in a way befitting his nature.  God is a lover, not a rapist.  He seeks to give his love to those who freely accept it and open their hearts to him.  He refuses to violate the wishes of those whom he has created in his image and likeness, who possess intellect and free will.  He directly controls the wind and the waves through a word of simple command, for wind and waves are inanimate forces.  But with regards to human beings, he makes himself available and waits for an invitation.  That invitation whereby we ask him to come into our lives and calm our interior storms is called faith.

Faith is not, therefore, an emotion.  It is not about an inner assurance, a feeling of confidence that is free of all shadow of doubt or fear.  It is rather a decision, sometimes made with knees knocking.  It is a yes that gives God permission to work in our lives and rearrange the furniture if he so chooses.  That means blessing, healing, salvation and miracles.  But it also means yielding to his will, his plan, his timetable.  And of course, that is the part we don’t like.  What will others think of me?  Will I still be able to spend Saturday nights the way I’ve always spent them?  I work hard for a living and deserve to be able to blow off some steam!  Will I still be able to hang out with Joe, to live with my girlfriend?

Sometimes we are not really happy with the way things are, but at least they are familiar.  We know what to expect.  We are in control, or at least we think we are.  Faith means handing over control, and that scares us.  We are free to say no, and quite frankly we often do.  Sometimes we say no in small ways – we only let God take us so far.  Sometimes it’s a very firm “no”, that shuts God completely out of our lives.

This is the sort of “no” that Jesus encountered during his visit to Nazareth, and which the prophets before him often encountered from the people of Israel.

So if Jesus was divine and therefore all-knowing, why did he bother to go to Nazareth at all?  For the same reason that God sent Ezekiel to the Israelites and told him in advance that they’d resist. The Lord wanted to take away all excuses.  God loved his people enough to offer them every opportunity for the healing and deliverance that they prayed for.  He called their bluff, so to speak.  Jerusalem pleaded for deliverance from the Babylonians and the people of Nazareth probably prayed for healing for Uncle Jacob or food for the town orphans.  But in both cases when God showed up, ready to pour out his gifts, they didn’t like the packaging and rejected the terms.

At the last judgment, when our lives flash before our eyes, we’ll be reminded of the times that God made a house call and we slammed the door in his face.  I say it’s time to apologize, unbolt the door, and roll out the red carpet.

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.

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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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