Jesus Our Shepherd
If Only
Patricia Datchuck Sánchez, NCR

Do you know the “if only” lament? Many of us do, and chant it often. As we move through life, it becomes like background music or a theme song for the weary, the burdened and the worried: “If only I were younger, I’d have more energy.” “If only I were older, I could relax and retire.” “If only I had more time, I’d be able to do so much.” “If only others were more cooperative ...” “If only they could see things my way ...” “If only I were prettier, thinner, smarter, braver, stronger ...” “If only I had a better job, a more understanding boss, nicer coworkers ...” “If only I didn’t have arthritis, cancer, depression ...” “If only others would understand me, appreciate me, welcome me, accept me as I am ...”

Ezekiel, whose call to be God’s prophet is featured in today’s first reading, could have added a few verses to this lament. If only God would choose someone else ... if only the people would listen ... if only they would believe God has sent me to them. And Jesus, featured in today’s Marcan Gospel, could have sung a duet with Ezekiel. He had come home “to his native place,” as Mark put it, and there, where people thought they knew him best, he received a less-than-cordial welcome.

William J. Bausch suggests that the resistance to Jesus was an all-too-human habit of putting others in a box (Once Upon a Gospel, Twenty-Third Publications, 2008). They thought they knew him; they decided who he was and were unwilling to consider any aspect of him that did not conform to their expectations. Perhaps we can imagine Jesus praying, “If only you could see and believe the gift that God has given to you in me ...” But like Ezekiel, who championed God’s word six centuries before him, Jesus would continue to experience rejection and misunderstanding.