Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 EZ 2:2-5
and set me on my feet,
and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites,
rebels who have rebelled against me;
they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.
Hard of face and obstinate of heart
are they to whom I am sending you.
But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD!
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.
Responsorial PsalmPS 123:1-2, 2, 3-4
To you I lift up my eyes
who are enthroned in heaven —
As the eyes of servants
are on the hands of their masters.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
As the eyes of a maid
are on the hands of her mistress,
So are our eyes on the LORD, our God,
till he have pity on us.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
Have pity on us, O LORD, have pity on us,
for we are more than sated with contempt;
our souls are more than sated
with the mockery of the arrogant,
with the contempt of the proud.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
Reading 2 2 COR 12:7-10
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Alleluia CF. LUKE 4:18
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MK 6:1-6
Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
One of the aspects of a prophet is this inward sense: I don’t want to do it! So often we see the prophets of the Jewish Scriptures telling us: I did not want to speak to the people, I did not want to say harsh things, I did not want to be the one who said these things! This inward sense is important because it helps us identify a true prophet. There are lots of people who say bad things, who tell us what is right and what is wrong. We have to be cautious of those who like to be prophets!! To be a prophet of the true God is not a vocation that one chooses for oneself. It is always a vocation, we can say this, imposed by God on a person. Our first reading today, from the Prophet Ezequiel, speaks to this imposed vocation.
The second reading, from the Second Letter to the Corinthians, reminds us prophets and all Christians give their best witness when they are aware of their own poverty and their weaknesses. Evangelization is about drawing others to Christ, attracting others to the Lord because of the goodness of the Lord. Paul could be a fearless preacher but was always aware of his own past and of his present weakness. This is a man who had Christians put to death and now preaches Jesus Christ.
The Gospel today is from Saint Mark and shows that even the people with whom Jesus had lived for so many years could not accept Him. They saw Him as simply an ordinary Jewish man. They could see and hear that He had received extraordinary gifts of wisdom and that He could work miracles–but that hardly dented their rejection of Him as simply an ordinary person. They could not accept God dwelling in Jesus. Again, the prophet is rejected, the extraordinary work of God is rejected.
Part of what we can learn today is that what is divine and extraordinary and wonderful is often hidden in the ordinary of human existence. We are invited to seek the Lord Jesus in the poor and the weak and the rejected. Amen.
Commentary on Ezekiel 2:2-5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6 From Living Space
JESUS GOES BACK to his hometown, Nazareth. And he is accompanied by his disciples. As was the right of any devout Jew, he gave the homily in the synagogue on a Sabbath. The townspeople are amazed. They are astonished at the wisdom with which he speaks, and the power of the miracles they had heard he was performing.
They are even more amazed because they think they know who Jesus is. He is the carpenter, the son of Mary and Joseph, and they know all his relatives. They grew up with him. And because they think they know him, they refuse to accept him. They see the outward person but they do not listen to the words. They had made up their minds about him long ago.
So many people in our society have made up their minds about Jesus and presume that what they know is the whole story about him. And what they reject is often not the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Gospels, but some distortion that has found its way into their thinking. Bertrand Russell, the English philosopher, once wrote a book called “Why I am not a Christian”. Many Christians would say, after reading the book, that if Christianity was what Russell said it was, they would not be Christians either.
Dangers of familiarity
They do not hear the message because they are blinded by the familiarity of the person. A perfect example of the saying that familiarity breeds contempt, not just boredom but contempt.
We are not much different from the people of Nazareth. The same thing can happen to us all the time. God is constantly speaking to us through the people we know, through things that happen to us, through situations in which we find ourselves. Again and again we do not recognise his voice, his message because he is speaking through someone we know very well, or someone we do not like, or someone who is a total stranger or a foreigner.
Because of their blindness, we are told that Jesus was not able to do any of his great works there. How often have we too blocked out God’s love and healing power because we refused to recognise him in a particular person or a situation? Yet, it was precisely through this person or experience he was trying to reach us.
Jesus now makes a sad comment on his townspeople. “A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” While people in other places greeted Jesus with enthusiasm and hung on his words, his own townspeople, his own family wrote him off, treated him with cynicism.
A prophet’s lot is not a happy one
It is an experience all prophets must be ready for. A prophet is a person who has been commissioned to proclaim God’s message, to call people to accept God’s word, to urge them to change their lives and base them on truth and love.
Traditionally, prophets both in the Hebrew Testament and in the long history of Christianity have met with resistance, hostility and even violent deaths. We have a perfect example in the prophet Ezekiel, who speaks to us in the First Reading. He has been called to proclaim God’s message to his people. God does not promise him an easy time. “I am sending you to the Israelites, to the rebels who have turned against me… Whether they listen or not, this set of rebels shall know there is a prophet among them.”
It is strange that messages urging truth, love, justice, freedom and peace arouse such opposition, hostility, hatred and violence. But it is happening all the time. Because, in many parts of the world, words like ‘truth’, ‘justice’, ‘freedom’ are seen as dangerous and threatening. Strange as it may seem, there are people who do not want to hear them. And more Christians have died for their faith in these enlightened and civilised(?) times than in any other.
Martin Luther King died for promoting the equality of all human beings irrespective of race. Mahatma Gandhi died because, as a Hindu, he was friendly with Muslims. Bishop Oscar Romero died because he denounced the exploitation of the poor. Dietrich Bonhoeffer died because he attacked the racist evils of Nazism. And the list could go on and on…
All called to be prophets
It is something each of us needs to remember. Every one of us, simply because of our baptism, has been called to be a prophet. We have all been called to spread the message of the Gospel in our families, in our working places, among our friends, in our society.
Whatever is happening we have to be ready to proclaim and defend truth, love, justice, freedom, people’s rights and dignity. There are some things over which we cannot compromise, there are some times when we cannot keep silent.
There are times when we may be afraid, or when we feel incompetent or inadequate. We can take encouragement from Paul in the Second Reading today. He had some very painful handicap which he felt prevented him from preaching the Gospel effectively. He begged God to take away this affliction.
The answer to his prayer was surprising. He was told that God’s power working through him shone more in his weakness. Otherwise what he said and did might have been attributed to his own brilliance. So he now totally accepts all his weaknesses, because then Christ’s power and light shine more clearly through him. “That is why,” says Paul, “I am content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong.” That is the voice of a true prophet. He is the fragile vessel of clay.
So let us too not be discouraged by our shortcomings – spiritual, psychological, social, physical. God wants us to be his instrument. He will stand by us and give us what we need when we need it. And when the Church and its message are accepted with open arms by any society, then we need to be suspicious about the genuineness of what we proclaim.
In principle, all Christians have the potential ability to prophesy, although not all actually exercise it. St Paul himself urged the members of his congregation to seek the gifts of the Spirit, especially that of prophecy (1 Cor 14:1; 1 Cor 14:39). Indeed, God very often use the gift of prophetic speech to encourage, guide, edify and even warn His people. Of course, the gift of prophecy goes beyond speech and utterances to one’s way of life. In fact, a true prophet is not only one who speaks the word of God but also demonstrates it in his very life.
What is significant in the gift of prophecy is that it is given to ordinary people, after all, for Christians by virtue of our baptism, are called to share in a special way the kingly, priestly and prophetic role of Christ. All the three scripture readings speak of the ordinariness of the call. Prophet Ezekiel was called from among his people. God told Ezekiel, “Whether they listen or not, this set of rebels shall know there is a prophet among them.” St Paul too spoke of his own weaknesses and inadequacy in spite of the extraordinary revelations he had received. Then, in the gospel, Jesus came back to his hometown, but as His folks were so familiar with him, they were surprised. “They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’”
The ordinariness of prophets is both an asset and a liability. An asset because the prophet, since he comes from among his people, understands the situation better than anyone else and therefore could read the signs of the time in the light of God’s word. That is why God always chooses prophets from among the people and they prophesy almost always for the community that they belong. The downside is that because the people are so familiar with them, they do not take their words seriously. Indeed, this was what happened to the prophets of old, including St Paul and Jesus. They were rejected by their own people. And so as they say, “familiarity breeds contempt.”
Perhaps, the real reason why prophets are not accepted in their own country is because people do not like to be challenged and be told that they are wrong. Today, people want their autonomy. They want to be a law to themselves and in a climate of relativism; people do not tolerate others who claim to have the truth. What is right or wrong is not a matter of objective interpretation but subjective. They do not want to give up what is familiar and comfortable. They do not want to change or hear things that are critical of their behaviour. They only want to hear “Good News”, that means, things that they like to hear.
Of course, sometimes prejudice is not against the person but more because of the conditioning of the recipients. We are so conditioned by our past experiences that we are not open to the miraculous and the surprising things of life. Indeed, some intellectual people are so proud of their knowledge that they think everything can be proven by science and reason alone. As a result, they shut themselves to the surprising ways that God wants to work in their lives. This is equally true in the dimension of faith. Old converts of the faith often think they know more than new converts. Just because they have long been in the faith, they become very skeptical and critical when new converts share the knowledge of their faith and especially their experiences and encounters with God. As a result of their conditioning it becomes an obstacle in their experiencing the mercy and power of God.
But should we give up our prophetic role simply because people do not want to hear? This perhaps would be an indication whether you are a true or a false prophet. Clearly, Ezekiel was forewarned that he would be sent to a set of rebels who are defiant and obstinate in turning away from the Lord. Jesus too came to His own, but His own received Him not. Yet, as St Paul would tell us in his letters, in and out of season, he would proclaim the Gospel, welcome or unwelcome, for this responsibility has been entrusted to him not by men but by God. Woe to him if he failed to exercise this office given to him.
As prophets, we should not take rejection too seriously. After all, we prophesy out of love and compassion. By rejecting us, they are ultimately the losers, since true prophets do not prophesy for self-interests but purely for the good of their listeners.
By failing to listen to the prophets that God sends us, we can ruin our lives, for the lack of faith would cause us to miss out on the blessings that the Lord wants to give us. Indeed, because of their lack of faith, Jesus could not perform any miracles in His hometown. It was not because Jesus did not have the power of miracles but because the people were not ready to allow God to act in their lives. If Jesus could not perform any might works, it was simply because they lacked confidence and faith in Him. God would not force His love and kindness on us.
Consequently, if at times we wonder why God does not come to our help or why He is silent in the face of corruption and injustice, could it be because we lack faith in Him? Indeed, when we blame God for not acting, perhaps, it is because our lack of faith in Him makes it impossible for Him to act; or even if He had acted, we cannot see how He is a God of surprises, finding a solution that we least expect. God does not do our bidding but He bids us to follow His way, as He asked St Paul to trust Him, saying, “My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness”. Truly, Jesus could do wonders for us but He needs our faith to accept His power at work in us.
How, then, can we remain true to our office as prophets? Fidelity to one’s prophetic office presupposes a real encounter with the Lord. Prophets are always called in the context of a conversion experience that is both religious and moral. Once again we see this pre-requisite in Ezekiel, St Paul and Jesus. Prophet Ezekiel was called in the context of a vision he saw. Awed by this religious experience, he fell on his face only to hear the Spirit telling him to get up and be the prophet of God. Similarly, St Paul too received a vision of the Lord on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians. Jesus on His return to His hometown read a passage from Isaiah confirming His messianic and prophetic office. Indeed, a previous experience or encounter with God is necessary for one to be a prophet because a prophet must be one who knows God and is in intimate encounter with Him.
Only when we have encountered the Lord, can our lives be transformed. Indeed, many people who have encountered the power, mercy and love of God in their lives change their lifestyles completely. Others wonder why their lives have changed, just as Jesus’ countrymen wondered how Jesus, the carpenter’s son whom they knew could have been gifted with such wisdom and miraculous powers. Of course, for Jesus and those of us who have been transformed and empowered, we know it is by the grace of God.
Secondly, filled with the Spirit of God, we want to proclaim Him and His truth to the world. We cannot be silent about what we have experienced. We only want to share the Good News we have received with others, for the Good News that we have been given is never for ourselves alone but for the whole world. And we do it not out of pride or arrogance but with compassion and love. We are not trying to impose our views or even the Word of God on others, but we want to invite them to respond to His Word so that they too might not be deprived of the love and truth that God wants to give them as well.
Thirdly, true prophets are those who are conscious of their dependence on the Lord. They do not act on their own strength and reasoning. That is why Ezekiel, after being commanded to prophesy to the stiff-necked rebels, God invited him to eat the scroll, the word of God, so that he would find strength, courage and wisdom to proclaim the Word powerfully. When we know what we are doing is what God wants us to do, we will be more concerned of who we are in God’s eyes than what others might think of us.
We are all prophets to each other. Prophets must listen to fellow prophets too. Our friends, our relatives and people who are familiar to us, might be the prophets that God sends to us to help us along the way. Sometimes, even the poor, the sick and the needy can very well be the prophets God sends to us to learn something from them. It behooves us not to be critical of them just because we are familiar with them, or because they say things that are not pleasing to our ears. Of course, we must neither be so gullible as to think that what everyone says, even if he or she claims to be speaking the Word of God, is to be accepted as gospel truth without proper prayerful discernment.
Today, we are called to proclaim the Good News, which is the Word of God or better still, Jesus Himself, to the world. It would be irresponsible for us to fetter the Word of God instead of proclaiming His Word, His truth and His love to the world, regardless of whether we are accepted or rejected. But we cannot be true prophets unless we have read the Word of God ourselves, so that we can discern His will in today’s times. Parents cannot guide their children unless they have discerned God’s will for them through the Word of God. Without being in touch with God’s word, we will be blind like them. Without finding inspiration and encouragement from God’s words, when we are unwelcome, persecuted and misunderstood, we will not be able to persevere in our work as prophets.
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
Tags: 2 COR 12:7-10, 2015, a thorn in the flesh was given to me an angel of Satan to beat me to keep me from being too elated, accept God’s word, Bishop Oscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, do not be afraid, EZ 2:2-5, Ezekiel, for power is made perfect in weakness, Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, God does not promise us an easy time, July 5, let us not be discouraged by our shortcomings, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, mk 6:1-6, Our eyes are fixed on the Lord pleading for his mercy, Padre Pio, physical weakness, prayer, Prayer and Meditation, proclaim God’s message, Psalm 123, psychological weakness, spiritual weakness, The only thing to fear is fear itself, weakness, What kind of wisdom has been given him?, When you are worried pray, Where did this man get all this?