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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Many years ago, I remember seeing a programme about the life of the

comedian Les Dawson. He was a northern comedian who was famous for also

being on Blankety Blank! and having a routine where he deliberately played

famous music on the piano with the wrong notes. I don’t know what you think

of him, or if you’ve even heard of him, but at the time I didn’t find him that

funny. Morcambe and Wise, when they first started on TV, were a dismal

failure, but improved, and found that humour varies across the country – what

worked in Manchester might not work so well in London, and America

required a different style. I spoke once to a comedian once who told me about

a night at a working men’s club when things were going terribly – they were

surprised that he came back to give the second session. As the saying goes,

“Don’t give up the day job!”

Today Our Lord isn’t doing stand-up, but things aren’t going too well. You

would have thought that, wherever He went, He would have had everyone’s

admiration, and that He could work with any audience, any person, knowing

them all inside-out and could use that to His Father’s glory. But instead there’s

no pleasing them. “Where did the man get all this?” They think that they

know Him inside-out, He’s got nothing to tell them, and, in fact, we know His

parents and His background – He won’t amount to much.

Now there’s something we perhaps don’t think about too much, and that’s what

is sometimes called the “hidden life” of Christ. The Gospels speak of His birth,

then skip forward to when He was twelve and found in the Temple, and then

skip on to when He begins his public ministry, which, according to tradition,

we think began at the time He was thirty. What happened during all that time

in-between? We just don’t know, but can only speculate. There are some false

Gospels that were rejected and not included in the Bible which tell a few stories

of Christ as a child striking people down and so on, but were thought to be

more the product of a vivid imagination, rather than any real sharing in the

truth. How did He keep His identity as God hidden? In the film Ben Hur there

is the scene, if my memory serves me correctly, where St Joseph is in his

carpenter’s shop, and someone asks him where Jesus is. “He has to be about

His Father’s business”, St Joseph replies. To which the other man asks: “So

why isn’t he here, then?” The next scene then shows Our Lord going off into

the countryside to spend time in prayer with His Father.

You can imagine the people of Nazareth thinking that they know Jesus. We’ve

grown up with Him. We know His family. So what’s all this about Him

performing miracles, and giving all these wonderful speeches? They think they

know Him – He’ll never amount to much. Once a carpenter, always a

carpenter. How wrong can you be?

Today, we can find people with a different, though similar, problem, and if

we’re not careful, we can end up beginning to develop it ourselves. They’ve

heard the miracles in the Bible umpteen times, and it no longer astonishes

them. In fact, they begin to find it all rather dull. It needs some new discovery,

some new insight, to begin to trigger some spark within them. Then there are

others who haven’t really heard about Christ, but are curious. They are

genuinely interested. And there lies an opportunity as well.

So, if we meet at times with lack of success, it happens. Les Dawson wasn’t

found funny by everyone. Morcambe and Wise had to perfect their technique.

Some comedians find that their audience can’t see the funny side. Our Lord, on

the other hand, found that people from his home town wouldn’t take Him

seriously. When we try to interest people in Christ, the results will be mixed.

But there will be success. Les Dawson didn’t have to go back to repairing

vacuum cleaners. Morcambe and Wise became household names. Our Lord

was able to found the Church and Christianity is one of the main world

religions. And even now, in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, each year there

are people choosing to become Catholics. If we are knocked down, the

important things is that we get up again. For without the Cross, there is no



Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at

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