Hometowns are for leaving, with occasional returns to visit family and to catch up with friends. On such occasions you will exchange warm greetings, enquire after those absent and share your stories. You will try, but you will find it hard to understand each other’s journeys. How can you? Too much has happened, good and bad; so many unexpected twists in the road. All the surprises, disappointments, challenges, triumphs and embarrassments; you, and they, are no longer the same.
Nor was Jesus. When he returned to his hometown they would not receive him. They could not understand and they would not listen to his words.
For the woman,
twelve years of suffering,
the physical distress of her bleeding
matched only by its consequent social exclusion.
(She is ritually unclean, and will remain so
while ever her haemorrhage goes unchecked).
For the girl, according to the fears of her father,
twelve years of living are about to be concluded,
just when her life should be beginning.
Except that the girl doesn’t die;
the woman, too, is healed by the teacher.
Connected only by a narrative
and the same span of years,
each is restored, in her own way,
to life, family and community.
This, according to gospel writer, Mark,
is what Jesus, the one sent from above,
When the boat is getting swamped
and the wind and the rain
beat against our faces and drive into our eyes;
when the news bulletins are full of fear and pain,
our leaders point their fingers
and no one takes responsibility;
when women are beaten,
children deal (or don’t) with trauma
and men set their brains aside
for the sake of chemical pleasure;
when the poor are undeserving,
the wealthy are withholding
and compassion is declared a luxury
we cannot afford;
when the weak and the vulnerable go unprotected,
their oppressors go unpunished
and we are no longer outraged by injustice;
speak again those words
you spoke to your distraught disciples,
to the out-of-control elements,
and to a planet curtained with tears: Peace, be still!
Figures of controversy,
shocking and always out of line;
driven by outrageous thoughts
and foolish enough to give them voice.
The straights heap their scorn upon them,
call them names,
ridicule their ideas,
and hide their disquiet behind their mocking laughter.
This man breaks rules.
His words threaten our authority
not to mention good order;
same thing, really.
These teachings could upset everything.
What might happen to us, our nation, even our world,
should we allow generosity to prevail over fear,
forgiveness to overcome vengeance,
and love to rule them all?
Better to pull the shoot
than wait for it to grow to a tree.
We’ll tell everyone he has Beelzebul;
that should get things happening.
By the time we’re finished
his own family won’t want to know him.