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God's Word on Sunday: There are no shortcuts on divine path

  • June 27, 2021

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) July 4 (Ezekiel 2:3-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6)

A nation of rebels and transgressors, filled with the impudent and stubborn! That is quite a sweeping indictment and does not leave much room for hope. But that is the message that Ezekiel had been missioned to proclaim to his own nation and people.

The mission probably did not enthuse Ezekiel, but it was not his choice: God had infused him with the Spirit, which had a mind of its own. He was to proclaim God’s word to them, but whether they accepted his words or not was not his concern.

Regardless of their choice, they would eventually know that a genuine prophet had been among them, but this would occur only after the reckoning that was coming their way. The words are harsh, but there is no need to focus exclusively on Israel, for most nations behave in similar ways. The prophet was especially hard on them because they were the covenant people.

They had received God’s laws and had made a solemn promise — in fact, many promises — to obey them and walk in God’s ways. But they had drifted away from God even while maintaining the outward forms of religious practice. In other words, they were typically human and just like us.

Walking according to divine law entails far more than correct religious or liturgical practice. Economic and social justice, active compassion and kindness, and a devotion to truthfulness are essential elements of the divine path. There are no shortcuts or substitutions.

Nations, peoples, and religious groups often deceive themselves, believing that everything is just fine. A good antidote for self-delusion is a periodic communal examination of conscience and willingness to listen to criticisms, even (especially) ones that we do not want to hear. The recurring scandals in the Church and the recent disclosures of the deaths in the residential schools represent an opportunity for self-examination, honesty and deeper conversion.

Some shrink from admitting weakness or imperfection. Paul was no stranger to weakness and, as a perfectionist, he wanted to be rid of a particular weakness that was plaguing him.

We do not know the nature of this weakness and many have been suggested. But it does not matter, for it can be any weakness, even our own. Paul asked God three times to remove it, but God would not budge. The “thorn in the flesh” had a purpose, which was to protect Paul from arrogance or an inflated ego resulting from his mystical and revelatory experiences. God had one thing to offer Paul: grace, and that would be sufficient. For that matter, it is sufficient for all of us. When we are weak but offer that weakness to God, God’s power can flow through us. It cannot flow through an overfed ego or a controlling attitude.

The homecoming of Jesus to Nazareth should have been a joyful and affirming occasion. It was not to be, for His reception soon turned hostile.

People recognized the wisdom of His teachings and they did not deny all of the powerful miracles that had been done at His hands. The teachings and the miracles were not the problem; the problem was Jesus. They knew him; they knew His family and had watched Him grow up. Their objection was right to the point: Just who does He think He is? He is one of us and is the carpenter’s son, and now he is claiming to be some sort of teacher and healer. Faith is what enables miracles to occur, and so powerful was their unbelief that the hands of Jesus were tied.

Jesus worked no miracles in his own hometown, so He moved on. Why did the people object to Jesus? We have fixed ideas and opinions about God, including how and through whom revelation and teaching will come to us. Fixed and dogmatic ideas are like blinders and filters, and they can be impenetrable. This unhappy tendency has always been with us, even to this very day.

We are sometimes no different from those in Nazareth who took offense at Jesus. It is far more helpful to allow God to challenge and surprise us, expanding our mental and spiritual horizons and deepening our understanding.