Author: Fr. Mike Byron
July 08, 2018

“A prophet is not without honor, except in his native place.”  If Jesus’ words are true, then this weekend should pretty much be my high water mark among you here at Pax.  Most of you don’t know me, and I am presuming to stand here before you as a stranger, telling you how to think and act about God, and faith, and Jesus, and justice, and gospel.  So if anything I say in the next few minutes strikes you as true or important, it will not be as the result of your faith in me personally, and that is a good thing!  Because the gospel is not about anyone’s personality or native talents, not even those of Jesus himself.  The gospel is about God’s will for our world, how we ought to live together, what we ought to care most about, how we ought to be spending our passion and our resources.  The gospel is about building God’s reign in our own moment and place, and this is not a project that is the privileged possession of any single person, or a chosen few.  It is the requirement of all of us who are baptized and bear the name and the responsibility of “Christians.”

So it really is true that this may be the weekend in which you are the most uncluttered by the narrative and the experience of me as your new pastor.  Eventually you will come to know my little picadillos and pet peeves and passions, and to that extent you will be tempted to filter the preaching of the gospel here through the lens of, “Oh, that is just him and his quirks–nothing to worry about.”  And sometimes you will be right about that, but not always.  Sometimes the preaching here will console you, but at other times it will unsettle or challenge you.  That is what the real gospel of Jesus does, and it is not on account of anybody’s personality–including mine.  And including the personality of Jesus himself, which is at the heart of the message of today’s gospel of Mark.  The people of his hometown of Nazareth, in hearing his preaching, were making it all about him, the messenger rather than the message.  So when they heard things they did not like or agree with, they believed that it was sufficient to discredit him rather than the gospel.  “Who is this man?!  Where did he get all this?!  We know him!”

That is the risk of anybody who dares to preach in church, and the risk of anybody who opens themselves to listening to it–the risk that it becomes all about a personality, rather than the kingdom.  But the kingdom is not dependent upon anybody’s personality.  It is entirely God’s blueprint, carried out in fits and starts by pastors and people, some of whom may not strike us as very wise or talented or easy to be with.  None of that matters in the end, if we truly are devoted to co-creating the kingdom.  It is God’s, not ours.  And as the gospel tells us today, we only end up hurting ourselves when we make our great mission and responsibility something less than it truly is.  Jesus could not work many miracles in Nazareth, we are told, because of the lack of faith among the people there–people who got confused about whether it was God’s will or Jesus’ personality that actually mattered most.  Their probing questions were not about the truth of the message, but instead about their experience, past and present, with the preacher.  In their case, a man whom they presumed to know too well, Jesus the boy next door.  

So may it always be for us, our attention fixed firmly on the message and the mission, rather than those who presume to articulate it for us.  I am very happy to be that person here, for the moment, at Pax, but there is not much to say about the kingdom that you do not already know, and are not already doing about it.


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Pax Christi Catholic Community

12100 Pioneer Trail
Eden Prairie, MN 55347


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