Readings: Ezekiel 2:2-5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1- 6
Is he not the carpenter?
We all probably get the point: the question is no compliment!
The word itself, “carpenter”, is interesting and in Greek means much more: a skilled worker in stone or wood. He could coble together a door or a wall, raise a ceiling that could support an upper floor; he could construct basic furniture or fix a plough. But he was not an engineer who could design an aqueduct or oversee the construction of a pier or raise a temple. And he certainly couldn’t preach on the scriptures.
Or could he?
We now appreciate that Mark’s Greek Gospel presumes a wide knowledge of Aramaic literature and Aramaic was the language Jesus spoke. There’s an Aramaic word, naggar, that describes the same kind of skilled craftsman as the Greek word I’ve already explained. But it has a metaphorical meaning in Jewish literature: it indicates a scholar. Think of the English idiom we have for a writer whom we might call a “word smith”. It’s a similar figure of speech.
But what kind of a scholar? Well, not a Temple scribe, not a learned academic. It’s a term used of those men emerging from that proletariat religious movement, working men who took their faith seriously, who were disturbed by the bad state of ritual and politics in the Jerusalem Temple and tried to maintain what should have been the holiness of the Temple, into the home and everyday life. these were the home-grown scholars whose sole education was the local synagogue. And of this movement, such scholars up north, say in Nazareth of Galilee, were considered the hicks. At best they were, in our terms, mere preachers as opposed to professional scripture scholars.
What does that have to do with our lives? Surely, we wouldn’t come to Mass today to put down Jesus!
Today’s Gospel makes me ask myself, do I try to set limits on the God I encounter in Jesus Christ? Do I give my rationalizations priority over those challenges that would pull me out of my bad habits? Do I want a god who only affirms my complacency? Do I have no trust in the infinitely experienced Craftsman of the cosmos who would invite me to risk new applications of time-tested virtues? Or would I close my eyes and ears to the innate nature of the materials of life and, indulging my denial, try to force them to become something they could never be? Is the Gospel not classy enough or exclusive enough for me to simply love and serve as it challenges me to do? Is the Gospel not esoteric enough for me turn back to God from my sinfulness?