The Prophet Hesekiel by Peter Paul Rubens (1609-1610) in the Louvre Photo/Public domain

God’s power manifests when we surrender to Him

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  • June 25, 2015

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) July 5 (Ezekiel 2:3-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6)

Who could blame Ezekiel if he had refused the role of prophet? The job description did not sound promising or encouraging. He was being given a thankless task that was doomed to failure. His mission was to prophesy to Israel, which sounded harmless enough, but the divine voice painted a very unflattering portrait of the nation. Impudent, stubborn and rebellious are not words that would give one hope of success.

Ezekiel prophesied to the exiled Israelites in Babylon in the mid-sixth century B.C. He attempted to keep the flame of holiness and observance of the Law alive among the people while they dwelt in captivity in a hostile land. We have to remember that this was an “internal prophecy” — it was talking about Israel to Israelites. Israel held no monopoly on these negative qualities, and the nations of the Earth have outdone each other throughout history in rebelliousness towards God.

All humanity labours under these weaknesses — they are part of the human heritage. In this passage, God was not under any illusions about Ezekiel’s chances of success. His mission was to proclaim God’s word to Israel, and whether they were open to it was anybody’s guess. But one thing was certain: they would not be ignorant of the presence of a Prophet of God in their midst. Being a prophet, either in a secular or religious setting, is never easy. The job of the prophet is to tell people what they need to hear but do not want to hear. Resistance and rejection, even to the point of violence, is often the prophet’s “reward.” Only later does the truth of their proclamation become evident. Yesterday’s “heresy” can become today’s official view or policy. This is usually when people line up to “honour the prophet,” even while forgetting the message. We can see this pattern repeated in our own lifetime. People are resistant both to truth and to change.

We usually ask God in prayer to take away our infirmities and weaknesses. It seldom occurs to us that they might have a role to play in our spiritual and character development. These very weaknesses can be the bridge to God and tools for our formation. Paul begged God three times to take away his “thorn in the flesh” — and we have no idea what that was — but God refused. God informed Paul that he could count on God’s grace, and that was enough. We learn to live with who we are and our life situation rather than side-stepping or escaping it. It is when we surrender ourselves to God, along with our weaknesses, that God’s power manifests itself. It is a sure cure for egotism, pride, arrogance or lust for control.

Even Jesus suffered the rejection that was the lot of the prophets — and in His own hometown! The crowd of people recognized the wisdom of His words and they did not deny the miracles that He had performed. So what was the problem?

Very simple — they knew Him. They might have even watched Him grow up. What could He possibly know? People expect messengers from God to be dazzling and impressive angelic beings appearing from Heaven, not the guy next door. But these are precisely the people whom God calls to be prophets — individuals from among us. We have a hard time taking the familiar seriously, and God’s word most often comes dressed in the very ordinary.

If we see only outward appearances, we will usually miss the message. In the case of Jesus, He seemed to them like the “guy next door” from the human point of view — after all, they knew who His parents were, they knew His brothers and sisters. They felt that He was overreaching Himself and not remembering His place. Although they heard His words with their ears, the hearts and minds remained closed. This always has a very negative consequence — it limits what God can do for us and among us, at least temporarily. Jesus was not able to do any real miracles there beyond a few healings.

God is never absent but sometimes difficult to recognize in everyday disguise. Let’s listen with the ears of the heart and observe with the eyes of the Spirit, lest we miss the presence of God in our midst.

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