Fourteenth Sunday of the Year July 5, 2009

Ezekiel 2:2-5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6
One of the most common failures of our human condition is that we tend to take things and people for granted especially if they have become very familiar to us. We underestimate people and situations and finally experience things as not conducive to happy living. This also happens when we deal with something holy and sacred. Hence considering the situation in today’ s world, we can say that our world of today is in constant turmoil and looks towards some healing. We ourselves fail to see the presence of the divine that is in and around us. Prophet Ezekiel in his times heard the heavenly voice to go among the nation that has rebelled against God. The Prophet heard this voice and obeyed. The people knew then that there was a prophet of God among them and they had to listen to him. This indeed was the time of rebellion of the people of Israel against God and God had punished them by sending them into exile. Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple was pulled down. Ezekiel the prophet offers them hope. He tells them that if they are faithful in witnessing to their beliefs even as strangers in the strange land, Israel would be restored. In the New Testament Jesus gives us a similar hope indicating the divine presence and those who trust in him and see the presence of God would get fulfilment for the hope. He gave this hope to his disciples when they were caught in the storm, or to the woman caught in adultery and to the thief on the cross. On the other hand If they remain at the level of periphery to see the exterior and go on refusing to experience the divine, they will certainly be lost.
Today’s three readings from the Holy Scriptures echo the Christian virtues of obedience, servitude and humility that should be the part of every Christian life as they are visualised in Lord Jesus, the prophet Ezekiel and St. Paul. All three, subjected to a greater authority, submitted themselves to the Divine Will of the Lord God. All of them had a mission to fulfil send by the divine providence and they showed their fidelity to this mission. In the First Reading from the Book of Ezekiel, we heard that the Spirit entered into Ezekiel, stood him on his feet and commissioned him to go to the people of Israel and to preach to them. During his commission, Ezekiel was warned that there was a possibility that the people would reject the message that he was delivering from God. He has been called to proclaim God’s message to his people. God does not promise him an easy time. But, whether they hear or refuse to hear, they shall know that there has been a prophet among them. Ezekiel obeyed the Lord God and served him. He went to the people with the message from God, preached to them, and the Word of God was rejected by many. Yet he remained faithful to God and continued his work. God’s call is gratuitous and we see him as on who is good and generous, giving to us freely all that we have and all that we are. At the same time He too expects us to give something to Him in return. Our gift to God is our person, our existence, our life and our words and our actions.
In the second Reading from the Second Letter to the Corinthians tells of the real danger even in serving God where the virtue of obedience can make a person proud. This is much the pharisaic attitude. As we mature in Christ, by the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, we gain greater understanding and knowledge of the spiritual mysteries of Christ and His mystical Body. While we qualify to teach, be it as a priest, a brother, a sister or a catechist, we are called always to remain humble in our obedience and servitude to the Lord Jesus. We are called to always remember that if our spiritual work shines in inspirations because we have the gift of teaching, it is because it IS a gift of teaching. It is NOT because of anything that we can or have achieved on our own. All praise and glory should always be given to the Lord God for His spiritual work that is manifested through us as humble servants. During the same reading, we heard St. Paul speaking about a thorn in the flesh, a messenger so to say, to torment him, to keep him from being too elated. We are not going to speculate as to what was the thorn because it is not revealed in the Holy Bible. The lesson that is important to learn from this is that sometimes the Lord will allow the evil one to torment us with a human weakness in order to keep us humble. As long as we have a weakness, it will discourage us from judging others who have a weakness of their own. Our hearts will tell us that we too are weak in the human nature and we should refrain from judging others. 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 Gospel of Mark tells us how Jesus took his missionary task seriously and served God the Father in obedience and humility. The letter to the Hebrews tells us how Christ was obedient to the Father as he said “Here I am ready to your will.” Jesus came on earth to do the Divine Will of His Father and obeyed to the end, even when he died on the cross. St Paul tells us that “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” Scriptures tell us that He came into the world in all humility and emptiness and showed himself as a humble servant in human flesh. Sometimes it looked as if his mission was a failure. He comes to his people with the message from God but they shut him out. Once during his public life he is in his hometown Nazareth accompanied by his disciples and he goes forward to teach in the synagogues. As was the right of any devout Jew, he gave the explanation in the synagogue on a Sabbath. The townspeople were amazed. They were astonished at the wisdom with which he spoke, and the power of the miracles they had heard he was performing. They are even more amazed because they know who Jesus was. They grew up with him. Only a few believed in Him and others were not willing to accept him as they knew him too well. They personally knew Him as the Son Mary and Joseph, with whom they were very familiar and they also knew him as the relative of James, Jose, Judas and Simon they could not easily take his teaching. They knew very well that he was a simple, ordinary carpenter. 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. Their familiarity with him was indeed a block to their faith, and they could not see the divine presence in Jesus. Naturally therefore very few were healed. 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 even today 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. Even though we easily blame the people of Nazareth, We are not much different from them. The same thing can happen and does 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 or 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. We see the person and not the God who speaks through the instrument of the person. 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.” It is an experience all prophets must be ready for. 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.
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. Today’s readings call us to awaken our hearts so we may see the Divine truth beyond the human appearance of those we know. Obeying and serving the Lord to whom we are indebted for our salvation, we should humbly believe in the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit that is manifested through our brothers and sisters in the Holy Name of Jesus. When we will have attained that elevation of spiritual knowledge and understanding, our faith will bring us to the realization that God is manifesting Himself all around us, in ways that we have never seen before. It is something each of us need to remember. Everyone 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. “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.

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