Sunday Sermon for July 8, 2018, the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Ez 2:2-5; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6
One of the pieces of advice told to people that I hear over and over again is “God does not want you to suffer.” I suppose this can go along with the “Gospel of Health and Wealth” which maintains that as long as you believe in Jesus you will be wealthy and have no suffering. In fact, these people tend to look at suffering as a punishment; you must have done something pretty bad to offend God and now He is allowing this suffering in your life.
If this was the truth, one would think the Apostles would have been preaching it. However, in the second reading today St. Paul reveals what God spoke to him in the midst of his suffering: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” One might be tempted to think the sufferings given to St. Paul were due to some of the sinful things he had done earlier in in life, particularly rounding up Christians and participating in the death of St. Stephen.
However, St. Paul does not tell us his sufferings were due to him being a sinner; rather, his sufferings were permitted to keep him from becoming too elated because of the abundance of revelations given to him. In other words, God is blessing this man with revelations, which would not make sense if he was living a life that was offensive to God. In fact, St. Paul follows up his revelation of what was spoken to him by the Lord by stating not only that he would boast of his weaknesses, but he said he was “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, constraints, for the sake of Christ.” He then proclaims: “when I am weak, then I am strong.”
It is because of the weakness St. Paul saw in himself that he learned to be dependent on God. Most of us, if we think we can do something ourselves, will assume we do not need any help. Jesus told us that without Him we can do nothing, but in practice we seem to forget this rather frequently. If St. Paul tried to rely on himself and his own genius for his preaching of the Gospel, the people would have heard only St. Paul, not God speaking and working through St. Paul. He needed to learn the principle that the more we can get ourselves out of the way, the more the Lord can do through us.
In the first reading the Lord tells the Prophet Ezekiel he is being sent to rebels who have rebelled against God. These were not the Pagans, these were the Israelites. God refers to them as hard of face and obstinate of heart, but He was sending the Prophet anyway. The reason? The people will know a Prophet has been among them. We see similar messages to the other Prophets and we know how all of them were treated.
The Church has coupled this reading with the Gospel in which we hear of our Lord being rejected by the people of His own home town. In fact, we are told “they took offense at Him.” One Who is infinitely more than a prophet was among them, but they found Him offensive. He spoke the truth to them and they did not want it. They were a rebellious house and they rebelled against God.
All of this serves as an important backdrop to our own situation today. Many Catholics have rebelled against the truth. They have found it easier to give lip service to God while making up their own morality. In a relativistic society like ours, each person now can decide upon their own truth. Nothing is objective anymore and God’s truth is just one way among many. When these people hear the revealed Truth of God, it is resoundingly rejected because it goes against what each person has decided to be their own truth. Jesus is Truth; so a rejection of God’s Truth is a rejection of Jesus.
We have to live the Truth, each and every one of us, and we have to speak the Truth in the midst of all the confusion, but it is probably not going to be well received by many who have rebelled against God. But, like the Prophets of old, we still have to do what our Lord asks. We will probably suffer weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints; we need to be content with these so we learn humility and dependence on God. The worst of the persecution will come from Catholics who have chosen to walk in a way other than Christ. Regardless, we must maintain the truth and live the truth so the rebellious house will know a prophet has been among them.
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.