Monday, June 28, 2021

Rejecting Prophets: A Reflection on the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wally and I were invited to share a reflection on our parish blog on the Mass readings for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

This Sunday's readings tell of rejected prophets, first Ezekiel in the Old Testament, then Jesus in the Gospel.

God warns Ezekiel his messages will be for "rebels… hard of face and obstinate of heart" (Ezekiel 2:2-5), so prideful they may not listen.

In the Gospel, Jesus is rejected by the very people who should know him best when He visits his hometown. They dismiss anything special about him:

"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?" (Mark 6:1-6)

(The term "brother" doesn't negate Mary's perpetual virginity; check out Jimmy Akin on "Bad Aramaic" for more on that.)

It's tempting to believe we would never reject Jesus. But in this Sunday's Gospel, who rejects Jesus? It's people who were closest to him from the beginning, who watched him grow up and had known him for decades. And yet, they failed to see Jesus as He truly was.

And don't we all fail to see Jesus as He truly is? Even after decades of closeness with intimate encounters at each Mass, we still inadvertently limit Jesus' presence in our lives and fail to recognize his good work in the world because it doesn't look how we expect it to look.

"That can't be of God," I protest. "God would never…" God would never what? Speak through a non-Catholic? Do good work through a person I don't like? Use a song I find offensive to communicate to someone else? Bless someone I think is undeserving? Use the political party I didn't vote for to bring about good in my country? Call someone to a unique vocation that makes no sense to me?

It's easy to become prideful, thinking I know Jesus best, thinking I know how and where and with whom God wants to work. But just like the people in Jesus' hometown, my pride limits my ability to see where God is present in the world, even in my own life.

St. Paul gives us the solution to pride in this Sunday's reading from the New Testament:

"...a thorn in the flesh was given to me… to keep me from being too elated." (1 Corinthians 12:7-10)

God allowed weakness in Paul's life, "a thorn in the flesh," to keep him from becoming too prideful. What was the thorn in his flesh? A physical ailment? A proclivity to sin? A demon? A mental illness? A difficult relationship? Recurring hardships? We only know that Paul recognized it as a blessing:

"I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me." (1 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Jesus was able to work fully through St. Paul because Paul's weakness kept him from the pride of limiting God.

Forgive me, Lord, for the times I've missed what you're doing in the world because of my pride.
Humble me, Lord, so I stop setting artificial limits on how or where or with whom or in what ways You are at work in the world, in others' lives, and also, in me.

Photo by Arun Anoop on Unsplash