Fourteenth Sunday of the Year: Ez 2:2-5; Ps 123; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6
“Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to the rebels who have turned against me. Whether they listen or not, this set of rebels shall know that there is a prophet amongst them.”
Ezekiel was one of the many prophets whose calling was to bring an unwelcome message to the children of Israel. His words were addressed to a broken people who had experienced the destruction of their homeland and deportation to Babylon. Ultimately his words would bring a message of comfort and the hope of return. Initially, however, there was no avoiding Ezekiel’s insistence that the people address the sinful attitudes that had contributed to their downfall. “Till now they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me.”
There can be no hope for the future without a humble acknowledgment of the pride that refuses to be corrected. The responsorial psalm captures perfectly the pride that refuses to look at itself. “Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy. We are filled with contempt. Indeed all too full is our soul with the scorn of the rich, with the proud man’s disdain.”
We are all sensitive to criticism, especially when such criticism comes from those closest to us. The temptation is to reject such criticism out of hand, to nurse our injured feelings behind a wall of denial and rejection. Ezekiel anticipated precisely this reaction: “Whether they listen or not, this set of rebels shall know that there is a prophet amongst them.”
Like the children of Israel, we must learn to heed the prophetic voice in our midst. The truth about ourselves, however uncomfortable, can never be ignored. Let us pray for the grace to see ourselves as we are and to heed the voices, however unwelcome, that confront us with the truth.
The Gospel narrative describes the varied emotions that awaited Jesus on his return to his home town at Nazareth. His arrival had been preceded by the many wonders that had accompanied the beginning of his ministry. “With the coming of the Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him.”
Initial admiration rapidly turned to something more ugly: the sinful pride that refuses to be questioned by the goodness of a familiar neighbour. “This is the carpenter, surely, the Son of Mary. And they refused to accept him.”
Jesus concluded the visit with a chilling observation.
“A prophet is only despised in his own country and in his own house; and he could work no miracle there. He was amazed at their lack of faith.”
It is generally in the day-to-day unfolding of our lives and from those closest to us that we learn the truth about ourselves. Let us pray that we, unlike the inhabitants of Nazareth, might be attentive to that voice.
Jesus left Nazareth amazed at the lack of faith that had refused to take his words to heart. Neither pride nor hurt feelings should close our ears to the prophet in our midst, however familiar. Jesus had been unable to touch the inhabitants of his own town because of their lack of faith. There are times when we must go far beyond the truth revealed to us. We must, with humble heart and trusting faith, embrace that truth.