14B – 7 July 2024

Graced Home

Message by: Fr Richard M Healey

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In this episode, I reflect on the evolving concept of home and the profound power of God’s grace. Drawing from my personal journey, I share how my understanding of home shifted from childhood to my time at university, and later, as a seminarian and priest. We delve into the story of Jesus returning to his hometown, challenging preconceived notions and inviting deeper relationships. Additionally, I explore St Paul’s experience of weakness in 2 Corinthians 12, highlighting how embracing our vulnerabilities allows God’s grace to be sufficient. Join me in discovering the transformative power of God’s grace in our lives.

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(00:00:00) –  When someone speaks about home, what does that mean for you? I think home kind of moves and and and changes as we we grow. When I was living at home as a teenager, you know, it certainly meant something. But then when I was 18 and I moved from the Bega Valley up to Sydney to be a student at Sydney Uni, I live with my two brothers and in Five Dock. The home began to shift like there was the practical, functional space of that little house in Five Dock. But home really stayed back on the farm for a long time. You know, that was where I thought of as my home. And it was some years later that I remember one day I spoke about home and suddenly realised I wasn’t speaking about Bega anymore. I was now talking about where I was living, and it felt like a shift had kind of happened with this whole sense of I’ve no longer being so much attached to that place, you know, the beautiful farm that we grew up on, and it was now somewhere that was beginning to be different.

(00:01:17) –  And it takes time. And I’ve moved a lot as a seminarian and a priest, moving around various places and it takes time to settle into a place and for that to be a home, for us to be a place where we are at one, where is that that sense of being able to relax and be renewed and rejuvenated in that space. So we see the surprise, I think, when Jesus goes back home. And it’s interesting. The mark doesn’t tell us where that is. It simply says “to his hometown,” we have to know from context that that is Nazareth, which we learnt back a few chapters before in chapter one. But when he goes, the right of any Jewish person was to be able to get up to read from the scroll of the scriptures, either the set reading of the day, or you could choose to read from a particular passage. And Mark doesn’t tell us what passage it was that Jesus read that day, but he began to teach, and his teaching espoused such wisdom that the people were astounded.

(00:02:38) –  And clearly they knew his reputation as being someone who did these mighty deeds, who worked these miracles. Perhaps some of them had seen these things, but they’re like, now hang on. We know this guy. He’s the son of Mary. And all of these relations that I mentioned to, presumably, are still there in the little village of Nazareth. It certainly wasn’t a significant place in, in any measure. And so everyone would have known everyone’s business. And so they knew who this tekton, this carpenter was. And where did he get all this wisdom? And I wouldn’t accept him. I mean, we know that story as well. You know, when we’ve met someone and thought we knew them and we’ve put them neatly in this little box, we thought, yes, that’s where they fit. That’s how they are to be interacted with. And then suddenly they start to espouse this wisdom, or they start to do things that the box no longer contains them. They’re no longer able to be fit and measured within that, and it kind of does away with the whole sense.

(00:03:48) –  It unnerves us. Because, you know, how do I put this person? What category do I want to put them in now? And Jesus is doing that work of calling these people into a different space. So often we do that, you know, we know stuff. We know information about Jesus. We know facts and figures about his life. Probably not too many, but we know something about him. But that’s not what a Christian is meant to do. We’re not just meant to know things about Jesus. We’re meant to know him. We’re meant to be brought into friendship and into relationship with him. We’re called into a deeper space of being at home with him. Of being in that place where we can relax and we know that we’re loved, and we know that we’re able just to be ourselves. Shares something of that story today in Second Corinthians seven, where he tells us about this miraculous, amazing vision that he had. The lectionary doesn’t give us the vision that he has where he’s taken up into this seventh heaven and this whole incredible event kind of happens.

(00:05:00) –  But Paul says, look, you know, I probably would have been even more proud than I was. Paul knew that he was a pretty wise and pretty amazing kind of person. And so to keep him humble, he says, the Lord gave me this thorn in my side. We have no idea what the thorn in his flesh was about. It doesn’t tell us. There’s no indication of what it was about. And I don’t think that all the speculation that has happened over the centuries really has helped us too much. But Paul tells us that it wasn’t a good thing to have this thorn in his flesh. And so he’s praying. We’re told three times, which simply means again and again and again. He’s just praying and longing and crying out to God to take this thing away from me, remove whatever this thing is, and allow me to experience the freedom of not having this affliction. And we know that prayer too. I’m sure that so many of us have prayed something along those lines. You know, get rid of whatever this thing is.

(00:06:07) –  And what does the Lord say to Paul instead? No. My grace is enough for you. For my power is made perfect or made complete, or is best in weakness. If only we could really sense that. You know, the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous is we admitted we were powerless over whatever the addiction is and that I couldn’t do it myself. Paul comes to that place where he realises in his weakness he can’t do it himself. But it’s in that place that God is able to move. It’s in that place of weakness, in that place of vulnerability, in that place where I can’t. But I know God can. I know that the Lord is able, with his grace, with his beauty, with his love, with his mercy, to reach into that place of vulnerability, into that place where I can’t do this, into this weakness, and that his strength is able to be supplied into that situation. And today we get that choice to stop running away, to stop trying to do it all according to my own plan.

(00:07:25) –  This is all thinking, yes, I know who this Jesus character is, putting him neatly in a box and storing him away on a shelf. That’s not what Christianity is about. We’re engaged, invited into this deeper friendship in this relationship. But it begins with that place of recognizing I am weak and I don’t understand, and I can’t get it, and I can’t do all the things that I want to do. But his grace is enough. His grace will meet me in my weakness. His grace will be able to find me in those places where I can’t do this and that, in that space. If I let God be at home with me, if I let God into that place of vulnerability, then that weakness can be a place of strength. That weakness can be a place where I find that life and that goodness and that truth of the Lord. So today, let’s really make that prayer of Paul our own. My grace is enough for me. Let God’s grace be enough. Let’s truly admit that in our weakness, God is able to come with his strength and his power.

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