HOMILY FOR THE 14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Readings: Ez. 2:2-5/2 Cor. 12:7-10
Gospel: Mk. 6:1-6
I like to watch travel shows on TV. I enjoy looking at the different areas of the world and how the people live their lives. I especially like the ones that focus on the land and the culture rather than just the food. It is interesting how one culture deals with the same issues we have and what we could learn from them and wonder if there is something they can learn from us. My favorite shows are the ones hosted by Rick Steves. His shows and books entitled “Europe through the Back Door” not only talks about how to travel on a budget, but also where the non-tourist places to visit can be found. His focus is for anyone to enjoy the “Real Europe” and not just the places that pay the local Tourist Board for their endorsement.
In 2009, Steves wrote a book entitled “Travel as a Political Act.” This book takes the normal tourist guide a step further and gives an explanation of how their lands and history has shaped their views on the world’s problems, how they dealt with them and if those policies and practices could be used in our country. For example, in Switzerland their answer to hard drug use was to take a pragmatic approach to the problem. These can range from providing dispensing machines for clean needles to having clinics that helps them with their dependency to installing blue lights in public restrooms making it nearly impossible for someone to locate the veins in their arms. The Swiss took an issue like drug abuse and, rather than treat it as a crime, they found a way to control it in order to treat it.
While Mr. Steves looked at the liberalization of drug use in one country, he also shed light on a country that is guided by strict government led by religious dogma. When he made his visit to Iran in 2008, he saw a land that was full of history and beauty. He also saw a country that was ruled as a theocracy fueled with religious fervor. The country, while having an elected president, is still ruled by the religious clerics led by the top cleric known as the “Supreme Leader.” While Rick Steves did not make an endorsement of one governing style over another, he was able to greatly understand other cultures and present them to his own people. He said that his goal was “not to be ‘right’ all the time, but to learn with an open mind, to consider new solutions to old problems, to come home and look more honestly in the mirror, and to become involved in helping our society confront its challenges more wisely.”
If one were to compare Rick Steves’ guidebooks to the Gospel of Mark, one could argue that the structures of the two were very similar. Mark constantly has Jesus moving from one place to another, or arriving to one town, or getting in a boat to cross some sea to another town, and so on. And yet through all his travels, he still made time to come back home to his people and tell them everything he found out and how those trips enabled him to spread His Father’s message to his Chosen People.
But when the people in his home synagogue heard Jesus speak, they were astonished and dismayed. “Where did he get this wisdom; this knowledge that he possessed? And what of these great deeds he has done in other places? How could he have done them? He was a carpenter; the son of Joseph and Mary. We know his whole family. He could not have known the things that he does.”
Anyone who could take the time to look at the Gospel of Mark might get a glimpse as to why Jesus travelled the countryside so much. His mission to travel can be seen as three-fold. First, it was to spread the Good News to all the Chosen People, like we have always read about. Second, while he was out spreading that Good News, he was also learning all he could about these other regions, trying to understand what their needs are and how His Father’s word can help them be better. He wanted to let them know that they were just as important as his own people so they, too, can come home to the faith. And third, he took those ideas with him home to see if they can help his own.
But it was his own people, ironically, that would not listen. They could not accept his abilities and they could not accept him. So all that Jesus could do while he was at home was to heal a few people yet he could not do any of the great deeds that he was doing in the other regions. When we have faith in Christ, we can do great things. Yet when we lose that faith, all is lost.
Our understanding of the world beyond our front doors enables us to see the commonalities that we share more than exposing the differences that keep us apart. The more we can travel, the more we can see kids playing with each other; teenagers falling into and being heartbroken by love. We can see couples getting married, finding a home, working for their fair share and bringing up children of their own. The games may be different; those who get married may not be our type; the homes may not be made the same way; and yet their actions are the same as our own. They are not better or worse; just different.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, his experiences outside of where he grew up enabled him to observe that everyone held certain truths that he said were self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with what he called inalienable rights, some of which were Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Jefferson did not get those words out of thin air. He saw the world and understood that the commonalities that are shared amongst all peoples overshadow any of their differences.
When the time came to remind Kind George of these rights, he exposed the lack of acknowledgement of them by the Crown’s forces in the Colonies. Jefferson reminded everyone that this Declaration was not just to start a new nation. It was for the rights that were given by God to every human being on the planet, whether they lived in the Colonies or not. He was doing the same thing Jesus did in the Gospel. They both proclaimed the Good News that God loves everyone and wants them to love each other.
Today, let us make a point to look beyond our own worlds, go explore the next horizon and become interested in another person’s world. You never know! That place you explore could be the final piece in the puzzle that you were missing that will bring total joy in your life and in the place you call home.
MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK
 Steves, Rick. Travel as a Political Act. (New York: Nation Books, 2009), 157-158.
 Steves, introduction ix.