THE DISTRUCTIVE POWER OF BIAS
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The gospel of this 14th Sunday in Ordinary Times, tells the story about the rejection of Jesus by His own home people (Mark 6:1-6); a rejection that deprived the whole town of the wonderful works of God’s mercy and the power of Jesus to heal and to restore. The reason for this rejection was nothing else but prejudice and bias; “Guilty by Association”. By the time of this visit, Jesus was already a celebrity with many miracles under His belt. One would think that His people will be excited and hold a parade of welcome for Him. But that was not to be. While in town, He taught with insight and authority; presenting old truths in new lights, using stories from everyday life to engage the heart, mind, will, and consciences of His listeners. He taught with such authority and power that one would think his people would have come to faith in Him. But that was not to be either. Rather, they found His wisdom, power, and vision offensive, and rejected Him. This reminds me of an African guy, who arrived here in the United States and got into graduate school. He did so well, (he would carry 27 graduate credit hours—9 graduate-courses—and make all As in each and every one them), that one of the professors suggested that he be evaluated to make sure that he was psychologically okay. It was the intervention of another professor, who saved the day by arguing that if the guy was white, he would be receiving medals, not a psyche evaluation.
The question is why was Christ rejected? He was rejected because the cultural biases and beliefs of his people prevented them from seeing the truth about Him. He was “Guilty by Association”, for the people believed that judging from His background, He couldn’t be that good. His family was not a leading religious family: “Isn’t this the carpenter”? Nobody knew His father: “Isn’t this Mary’s Son?” (In Jewish culture, you are not the son of your mother, but the son of your father. So, this way of referencing Jesus implied that He must be an illegitimate son). They associated His family as commoners: “Are his brothers and sisters not here with us”? Sadly, they had judged Jesus on various factors, except the only factor that mattered most: that he was the Son of God. They had denied him this identity all because of their cultural bias and prejudice. So, they treated Him as an upstart who has risen above expectations, and to level Him off and put Him where He belongs, they rejected Him and put Him down as an imposture.
What is so sad is that this dynamics of cynicism and discrimination is presently operative in our society. Many a time people may judge, dismiss, and write you off because of your race, color, creed, ethnicity, gender, etc. You can see this tendency when your color, race, zip code, and gender inhibit and prohibit opportunities for development, upward mobility, and growth; when others refuse to see the wealth of treasure that you can bring to our collective survival as a nation; when systemic conditions hinder accountability by distorting, dislodging, and eventually dismissing evidence in the protection of some members of the society against others; when people think that they are superior to you and that your growth is, somehow, a threat to their identity and control over you. In these situations, remember who you are and do not lose the sense of who God has made and called you to be to this majority scandal.
The truth is that biases and prejudice blind people to the depths, the gifts, the talents, and the dreams that others can bring to this world. But there are depths in each and every one of us which only God knows. When people look at you and despise who you are even before they come to know you, just because of your race and ethnicity, their behavior speaks more about who they are than about who you are; it speaks of jealousy and a, begrudgingly, small heart. It only blinds them to their selfishness and pride. So, never let anyone make you feel less than who God has made you to be. There is a beauty in you that your adversary may refuse to see, but you cannot satisfy this error by not seeing it yourself.