Knowing Jesus, not just knowing about Jesus, is key to transforming our hearts

Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB

By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time/July 8

Ezekiel 2:2-5; Psalm 123:1-2,2,3-4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6a

Stories of rejection, no matter their details, are heart wrenching. We have heard too many of these stories lately. People displaced, families unable to find a chance to live together, even individuals curtailed in their quest to develop their talents.

Jesus faced somewhat the same situation as he went back to his home to preach. Going home for Jesus was a bit like going to a reunion of family and friends. His family and the crowd seemed very skeptical about what Jesus was about: “‘Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.” (Mark 6:4)

God’s power is not magical. It is the power of a relationship of trust. God will not be able to perform mighty deeds in our life as long as we hold him to our limited vision.

As one author put it, the crux of the problem, as Jesus was experiencing it, was the “scandal of the Incarnation.” Jesus’ talk of the coming of the kingdom of God, changing one’s way of life — this is not the person they were accustomed to being around. They knew a child in swaddling clothes and a young man who worked with his father at a trade. Now God was coming too close. They had relied on the protection of ritual and philosophies to keep their understanding of God comfortable. Jesus’ message offered divine possibilities they found uncomfortable. Remembering the words of the Lord so long ago through Abraham and Moses was acceptable; hearing the word of the Lord now through God’s very Son was more than they could handle.


Jesus was “amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:6), a condition that cut short his ability to perform miracles. The “scandal” of the Incarnation was that, in Mark’s words, God was limited by human incredulity. Jesus could not bring the possibilities of the kingdom to these people who had a narrow vision of God’s possibilities.

Paul holds the secret that unlocks the “scandal” of the Incarnation. The insight Paul offers about who this person Jesus is becomes clear in the way he understands his “thorn in the flesh” as he describes it in the second reading.

Rather than using his plea to “test” Jesus’ veracity and power, Paul sees in the trial the further deepening of his relationship with Jesus. The crux here is the difference between Paul and the “crowd” — the difference between knowing Jesus and knowing about Jesus. Paul had a relationship with Jesus. His trials only helped deepen the relationship of reliance on Jesus. For the “crowd” in Jesus’ native place, their experience with Jesus was limited to knowing about him, which led to judgment and criticism.

It is easy and comfortable to fall into the trap of looking at Jesus from afar, from our limited vantage point placing our own expectations on Jesus. Our “denied” requests are only that. We move into our powers denying God’s power to transform our hearts. Our relationship with God is built on our judgment of God’s care for us. The possibilities of God are limited by our lack of reliance on God, which produces a path to a deeper and deeper faith and relationship with God.

God’s power is not magical. It is the power of a relationship of trust. God will not be able to perform mighty deeds in our life as long as we hold him to our limited vision.

SISTER RACHEL Bergschneider, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, and has served as a teacher, campus minister, and pastoral associate in the Diocese of Peoria.


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