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For Your Weekend: When Your Child Rejects Jesus

Laura Phelps
July 6, 2024

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Mark 6:1–6

I’m not the greatest mom. There are things I wish I had done or said differently, like that one Thanksgiving eve when my kids kept getting out of their beds and interrupting my frantic cooking and cleaning. I told them that if they didn’t sleep, Tom the turkey would peck their eyes out.

That left an impression.

But I’m not the worst mom, either, and if there is one thing I did right, it is that I raised my children in the Catholic faith. Sunday Mass and prayer before meals were like breathing; you didn’t think about or question it—you just did it. It was how I was raised, my parents were raised, and their parents were raised, and so on. Being Catholic is more than a moral checklist, it’s a family tradition. It is who we are. In our home, God is real, the saints are our friends, and prayer is the golden thread that holds us together when the drama of life threatens to pull us apart. 

And oh, how it pulls.

My children are grown now, and I’ll be honest. I can understand why they have turkey issues, but I’m having trouble understanding their decision to abandon the faith, toss tradition aside, and walk away from the one thing that holds us together. 

I marvel at their unbelief.
And Jesus marvels, too.

In the past weeks, we’ve seen Jesus calm (Mark 4:39), heal (Mark 5:15), and restore (Mark 5:34,42). People were falling at His feet, rising from the dead, and quite appropriately, all men marveled (Mark 5:20). But in Sunday’s gospel, the climate changes. Jesus returns to His hometown of Nazareth, and when He begins to teach His family and friends in the synagogue, they are astonished—and not in a good way.  They question His authority, “Where did this man get all this?” (Mark 6:2). They challenge His identity, “Is he not the carpenter…?”  Instead of accepting the Word made flesh, they take offense at Him (Mark 6:3). And how does Jesus respond? 

“A prophet is not without honor, except in his native place, and among his own kin and in his own house” (Mark 6:4).

Can you imagine the pain of being rejected by the people closest to you? Scripture records two times that Jesus marveled. The first time is when He sees faith where faith is unexpected: in a Gentile (Matthew 8:10). The second time is when He sees a lack of faith where faith is expected: in His own hometown (Mark 6:6). 

I don’t expect a lot, but I definitely expect to find faith in my own home. I can’t help but wonder what happened. What did I miss? Where did I go wrong? Is it because of Tom the turkey? Because I was just joking about Tom the turkey!

Far too many are suffering the heartache of a child who has not just strayed from God but who is offended by Him, doubts His goodness, and questions His authority: all fruits of our secular age. Author Joshua Chatraw states, “Today, the gospel story is often presumed to not only be false but also to be an oppressive leftover from the past.”[1] What we accept as a good influence, our children reject as an obstacle to finding purpose and meaning. Instead of following in the traditional footsteps of mom and dad, they believe they are breaking free from a structure that limits them; choosing a path that promises freedom and leads to authentic living.

I’m familiar with man’s search for meaning. What is new to me is the human pursuit of authenticity; the belief that comes from discovering my “inner truth” and who I am apart from any rules, religion, or authority. This explains the rise in witchcraft, crystals, and tarot cards; people seek them in hopes of discovering who they are. It’s the search for identity. And while I get it—I searched, too—the challenges our children face are different. “The cultural narratives that seep into our psyches have changed,” suggests Chatraw, “and with this shift, what people view as ‘common sense’ has changed as well.”[2]

This change in common sense makes preaching the truth as desirable as beating your head against a brick wall. But what’s the alternative? Give up? Stay offended? Tell them about the fires of hell? Block them on Facebook? Exactly how do we win a heart back to Christ? 

Father Alex Colautti, Vocations Director for the Companions of the Cross, offers some help. He explains that we live in an age where “supreme value is being placed on being authentic:” the gospel of the age of authenticity. “It’s not the gospel, but it’s a competing vision of human flourishing and what it means to be fully alive, and some of the obstacles are external authority structures that tell you how to live your life. That is an obstacle that puts restrictions on who I am and who I want to be in my inner self.”[3] How is this helpful? Because the key to any good conversation is entering it with an understanding of the backdrop you’re dealing with. If the world’s constant message is, “Don’t let anyone tell you who you are,” take a guess at who your number one stumbling block is going to be. Yup. You guessed it. The Catholic Church. 

But it’s actually not all bad news.

When Jesus was rejected in His hometown, He marveled, but He didn't give up. He continued to teach those longing for an experience of God. So long as there is a psychic in business on every corner of my hometown, we can rest assured that there remains a longing. So do not despair, mama. God is on the move and loves your children more than you do. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11). 

Our children—His children—will return. They will discover that the fullness of life is found in discovering who they are in Christ. And when they do, He will marvel.

With you and praying for you,

Food for thought or journaling…

If your child has walked away from God, stop talking at them and try asking them: What are you reading right now? What are you watching? And then,  just listen. Don’t criticize. Don’t get upset. Take the time to see life through their lens. 

Father, the world wants nothing to do with You, and our children are paying the price, but we will not back down. We claim the promise that he who seeks will find. (Matthew 7:8) Our children—Your children—are seeking. Please soften their hearts and quiet the noise of the secular age. Help them to find You quickly. Amen.

P.S. According to Father Colautti, one of the ways we reach the unbelieving is to “give people an experience of God,” and no one does this better than Walking with Purpose! Your next opportunity is this fall at our live event, Flourish: The Art of Being Human. Extend the invitation, buy the ticket, and leave the miracles up to God!

[1] Joshua D. Chatraw, Telling a Better Story: How to Talk About God in a Skeptical Age, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2020), back cover.
[2] Ibid, 1.
[3] Ryan O’Hara and Fr. Alex Colautti, “Preaching on Purpose with Fr. Alex Colautti,” on Better Preach Podcast #65: https://www.ryanohara.org/podcast/065.

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