Sunday Sermon for July 5, 2015, the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary time, Year B
Readings: Ez 2:2-5; 2Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6
In the Gospel reading today our Lord says that a prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin. The obvious problem is that those people know the prophet and have known him since he was young. Because of their familiarity with the person, they assume that God could not have called that person to such a position. When it is someone we do not know, it makes more sense to us because we can romanticize in our imaginations that the person was always holy.
Of course, today we do not tend to accept anyone. This is for a couple of reasons: first, there are just way too many people claiming to have visions or locutions, so we tend to reject most, if not all, of them. Second, with the internet, we can quickly find out a lot about a person we have never known before. So, even though the person did not grow up in our town, we can hear from others who know the person and find reasons to reject their claims to divine revelations.
For the most part this is the right thing to do. The problem comes where there is someone who is actually receiving something from the Lord. After all, God says through the Prophet Amos that he will do nothing in the world without first telling His Prophets. This is a real issue then because we have to trust that God will speak to us through some chosen souls, but the sheer multitude of people making such claims also reveals the attempt of the devil to mimic God’s work in order to sew doubt and confusion.
Nonetheless, we do have a number of messages the Church has approved. We have no requirement to believe any of them because they are private revelation but, at the same time, the Church approval means that we can believe them without concern of being harmed or led astray. But even beyond these things, we do have the Prophets, the Apostles, and our Lord Himself speaking to us in the Scriptures which is public revelation; these we are required to believe.
This becomes very important for us because we have become a Church and a nation that, as God spoke about the Israelites in the first reading, can be called a rebellious house. In many ways we have been rebels and have rebelled against God. In response to the Israelites, God sent the Prophet Ezekiel to preach. Even if the people rejected his message, they would know a Prophet had been among them and they would have no claim that they did not know any better.
If we are striving to live according to the will of God, it is not necessary for us to hear the words of a prophet calling us to repent and return to the Lord. However, if we are not trying to live as we ought, we do not usually want to hear what the prophet has to say because we find it inconvenient. We have to admit the truth, when that happens it is because we do not want to give up our sins and change our lives. This has been the pattern for millennia.
When the Prophet Ezekiel was sent to preach, God told him that he was to say to the people: “Thus says the Lord.” When St. Paul went out to preach, he also went as a representative of the Lord. He did not preach himself, but Jesus as Lord. When our Lord preached, it was God himself. He did not have to say “thus says the Lord” because is is both Lord and God. However, when He came into this world it was in a manner similar to that which St. Paul tells us the Lord spoke to him: He came in weakness.
It is precisely this weakness that causes some people to reject the Lord, but it is also in the weakness that the power of God is proven most perfectly. This is true not only with regard to those who preach the Word of God, but it is also true for those who hear and believe. Just as God works through the weakness of those who preach, so He works through the weakness of those who believe in Him. We do not like to appear weak in any way, but St. Paul rejoiced in his weakness, as well as in insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints. This is because it becomes clear to everyone that the good that comes from the work can only be from God.
God has sent His Word and you have believed. Now it is time to allow Him to work with you and, even if those close to you do not accept it, God will be glorified in your weakness.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.