Jesus commissioning the Twelve Apostles by Ghirlandaio, 1481 Public domain

God's word on Sunday: We know the better way

  • July 7, 2018

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 8 (Year B) Ezekiel 2:3-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6

Ezekiel was not just another angry person outraged by the current state of the country. He was a prophet — his words and actions were not his own. In fact, he even spoke of a spirit entering him and taking control. 

There is a big difference between a true prophet of God and just an angry and zealous individual, and we often blur the difference. As a true prophet, he was to preach God’s Word to a stubborn and rebellious people who had a bad habit of ignoring prophetic warnings and turning away from the provisions of the covenant. In other words, they were very much like us. 

During the mid-6th century BC exile, Ezekiel struggled to keep the memory of God and the covenant alive and vibrant in the people. Some had begun to forget the ways of God and were being assimilated into the Babylonian culture in which they lived. People are resistant to change, and even more resistant to self-knowledge and an admission that they are less than perfect. 

The mission of the prophet is to break through those defences and shake people to their core. Sometimes they are successful, but often the mission falls flat. 

Only later, long after they are dead (often violently), do people line up to do homage to the unheeded prophet. The excuse is often “we didn’t know,” which in most cases is sheer nonsense. Many people adamantly refuse to know. They prefer their thinking done for them by media, culture and demagogues, and this is often based on fear, emotion, selfishness and superficiality. 

In our own day, many people have forgotten the ways of the Lord and the requirements of justice, compassion, mercy and generosity that are the essential core of faith in God. As we look around at the disarray, confusion, injustice and suffering that we have created in our world, we must remember that we know a better way. 

Even though we may not have a genuine prophet in our midst, many concerned and spiritually aware people have warned us. As Ezekiel tells us, whether we respond positively or not is up to us, but we can never say we didn’t know.

Human weakness affects nearly everyone in one form or another. We should be very suspicious of anyone claiming to have escaped the limitations and struggles of human existence. Paul was given a “thorn in the flesh” by God to keep him from having too high an opinion of himself because of his visions. 

We don’t know what this “thorn” was and it really doesn’t matter. Paul asked God three times to take it away, but God refused. God’s grace would be sufficient for it was through weakness that Paul would experience God. 

When our guard is down and we are humble before God, we become strong by means of divine grace. Paul admitted that when he was weak, he was strong — but the strength was from God. Overcoming weakness or adversity is not just a question of more willpower or trying harder. 

When we try to do things alone, we are seldom successful. In fact, things can actually get worse. God cannot be our consultant. God does wonders on our behalf when we allow God to be in control.

Jesus did not get a good reception in His hometown. The people recognized that He spoke words of wisdom and they couldn’t deny the deeds of power He had performed. But they were offended and could not accept that He truly spoke on God’s behalf. 

Like most people, they had very clear expectations about God. They “knew” how God would communicate with them and through whom, and even what God would say. 

Rigid thinking and expectations act as a very effective barrier against God’s revelation. God communicates with us through seemingly ordinary people, and the revelations usually lack the fireworks and excitement we expect. 

The Word of God comes to us in diverse ways, even those we might find disconcerting or shocking. It might even come to us through people we know. 

Let us not decide what God can or cannot say and do, but allow ourselves to be surprised and challenged. 

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