Sunday, July 8, 2012
“They shall know that a prophet has been among them.” (Ezekiel 2:5)
"A prophet is not without honour except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house." (Mark 6:4)
There is the story about a bishop who was interviewing a senior seminarian before his ordination as deacon, and asked him where he would like to be assigned as a deacon for pastoral training. The seminarian said, somewhat boldly, "Oh, my bishop, anywhere but New Canaan!" "Why not there," the bishop asked? "You know," the seminarian answered, "That’s my hometown -- and we all know that ‘a prophet is not without honour except in his native place.’” The bishop replied, "Don't worry my friend! Nobody in your hometown is going to confuse you with a prophet."
Today’s gospel tells us how Jesus encountered rejection with prophetic courage. The readings too warn us about rejection and hardships faced when doing the Lord's work. In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel tells us about his receiving God’s call to become His prophet. Yahweh warns Ezekiel that he is being sent to obstinate and rebellious Israelites in exile in Babylon. Hence, as God’s prophet, he will have to face rejection and persecution for giving God’s message.
As Christians who accept the call of Jesus and seek to follow him, we also may face indifference and hostility, contempt and scorn, weakness, hardship and persecution, insults and rejection. In the second reading, Paul frankly admits that he learned by trial and error that he couldn't preach the gospel on the basis of his own strength and talent. Rather, the weaker he became, the more room he left for the Spirit of God to work through him. Paul discovered positive value in his pain. He understood that suffering, accepted as God’s gift, produces patience, sensitivity and compassion and a genuine appreciation of life's blessings.
It was natural that Jesus should visit his hometown, Nazareth, as a rabbi with a band of his disciples. Since Jesus’ fame as a preacher and miracle worker in other places in Galilee had reached Nazareth he was invited to read from the Prophets and explain the text. During his “Inaugural Address” or “Mission Statement,” Jesus took upon himself the identity of a prophet, different from the image of the miracle worker that people wished to see. As other faithful prophets of Israel had done, Jesus, too, held people accountable for their selfishness, their faithlessness to God, their lack of justice and mercy (Micah 6:6-8), and their sinfulness. The first reaction of the people in the synagogue to Jesus' words was one of astonishment, but later their prejudices got the better of them. They knew him only as a carpenter from a poor family, with no formal training in Mosaic Law. Certainly, they thought, he had gone far beyond the point one of his status as a humble carpenter should go.
How many wonderful opportunities do we miss out in life just because of this type of automatic judgment? The Prejudice Barrier! Think of the lasting friendships and the fruitful relationships that could have developed, if we hadn’t “boxed” people with a particular tag. Yes, there are prophets among us, sharing God’s goodness in our midst. God is present giving us His message through both our nearest and dearest and our priests, employers, neighbours and coworkers. Since God uses these people as His prophets to convey His message to us, it is our duty to acknowledge and honour them. Let us express our appreciation today for our families – spouses for each other, parents and children for each other. A word of appreciation for the lady who cooks the dinner, for the neighbour who is always ready to share our happiness and sorrow, for the friends who have given us time, support and attention when we needed it the most – all God’s messengers of love and light -- need our proper responses to them for their service and to Him for His mercy. Let us not take this active presence of God among us for granted, and let us not ignore God’s direction, help and support in our lives coming to us through His words in the Bible and the advice and example of others. Amen!
“Jesus, pour your Spirit on me so that I can proclaim your salvation.”