14th SUNDAY(B) July 8, 2018
Ezekiel 2: 2-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10; Mark 6: 1-6
by Jude Siciliano, OP
Most people are not very knowledgeable about Israel’s history, nor can they name the great king’s who ruled and misruled. But, I bet even these non-Bible readers can name at least a few of the prophets. The prophets have made their mark on the formation of God’s people through the centuries, right up to the present time.
Today’s first reading narrates the call of the great prophet Ezekiel. Four times he tells about the occasions when God called him. All of these accounts tell of how God is sending him to preach to the hardhearted and rebellious Israelites. On our own we humans are not up to the important, and sometimes, life-threatening task of prophesying. But God’s call to Ezekiel and to the other prophets always includes help – big help! – the gift of God’s Spirit. Ezekiel tells with wonder of the moment when God gifted him: "the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet."
He’s not just talking about standing upright, is he? A prophet in any age, including our own, also needs the same life-giving and fortifying spirit Ezekiel received – to stand us up on our feet.
When we are called upon to speak up for: the rights of others, conformity to God’s law and comfort for the afflicted, we need help, lest our own spirit shrink from the task. Being a prophet, even in the confines of our homes, workplace, church community, or civil setting, is a risky and, some would say, a foolish business. People don’t like to change their ways of acting and thinking and they don’t like the one calling them to make those changes. Which takes us to today’s gospel.
As I drive around our Texas roads and highways I see bumper stickers that say, "My boss is a Jewish carpenter"; church bulletin boards read, "Jesus saves!" Large billboards along the roads invoke the name of Jesus and make promises to those who believe in him. People all know something about Jesus; his reputation for cures, and his wise sayings. Statues and paintings depict him in both private and public places.
It seems good that the one who was sent from God and was God-in-flesh is so much a part of our lives. We have many reminders of him. But there is a way he can be everywhere, but nowhere. Familiarity can breathe indifference. He can be so present that he just fits comfortably into the background of our lives, like wallpaper, our washing machine, the McDonald’s just a few blocks away, and our evening newscaster. We can say, as the people did in his native place, "Oh sure, we know Jesus. He’s one of us. He has been around for years." In our "native place," we have lots on our minds that take up our every waking moment. There is a danger that we miss Jesus’ among us, because he so familiar to us, so much part of the furnishings of our lives – and we have other things on our minds.
Perhaps today’s gospel will open our eyes to what we are missing – whom we missing. Notice the parallels to our own lives. Jesus returns to a place where people are very familiar with him. ("Sisters" and "brothers" may have been his cousins in the close knit community in which he was raised.) They know his trade, he’s the carpenter. They know he has done mighty deeds and is noted for his wisdom. Before he left to go preaching he was part of the local scene, someone they would have spoken with daily. Maybe he even repaired a roof, or made a chair for them. They probably even liked him.
But they weren’t willing to take the important next step – beyond familiarity, beyond knowing the facts about him. They weren’t willing to believe that, despite his most ordinary appearances and his, up till then, most ordinary life, that in Jesus, God had entered their lives. God was there ready to perform powerful deeds on their behalf, willing to share a wisdom with them they could not achieve on their own.
What a difference it would have made had they accepted what he was bringing to them! They would have seen themselves and one another, as God-loved. They would have treated each other differently, the way Jesus treated people. They might have changed their priorities and not measured themselves, or others, by the size of their homes, property, or their standing in the community. Nothing would have been the same for them, because they would have known God, by knowing God in Jesus.
What could be more ordinary than bread and wine? There’s not a lot on the altar today. We probably serve a better grade wine in our own homes. This ritual, these prayers, seem so ordinary. They are so much a part of our lives that we can get used to them and forget what is being offered here to us. It is the same Spirit that was given to the prophet Ezekiel, that set him on his feet and sent him to bring God’s word to the Israelites. It is the very Spirit of Jesus Christ and it is given to us here today through the Word we hear and the food we share.
Maybe we can look again at the familiar billboard signs by the roadside. "Jesus saves" and ask "From what?" Saves us from going down blind alleys. Saves us from aimlessness. Saves us from guilt and self-incrimination. Saves us from missing our God, who comes in the most everyday and ordinary ways to us – those familiar faces in our own "native place."
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/070818.cfm
Every creature is a word of God and is a book about God.
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you.
Ezekiel 2: 4
It is no wonder that several of the prophets initially said "no thanks" to what God wanted them to do before they actually did follow through on their mission. It is hard enough to be a messenger to a receptive audience that would be open to an uncomfortable message, let alone trying to reach close-minded people. God does not give up on anyone and so the prophets will do what God impels them to do.
In the work of social justice, there are often topics that are uncomfortable to discuss because they question our biases and limited world view. As I am writing this, Pope Francis states that he agrees with US Catholic bishops that separating children from their parents at a border is "immoral." He tweets "A person’s dignity does not depend on them being a citizen, a migrant, or a refugee. Saving the life of someone fleeing war and poverty is an act of humanity" (6/20/18). One of the primary Church teachings is the dignity of the human person. . .without exception. How difficult do you find this teaching when applied to immigrants and refugees?
Let me apply this teaching of the dignity of the human person in regards to racism. The concept of race is a human construct begun in the Middle Ages. Race simply does not appear in the Bible. The need to feel superior over other human beings who bear the same human dignity as our own is racism. Pope Francis states: "Some of you said: this system can no longer be endured. We must change it; we must put human dignity again at the center and on that pillar build the alternative social structures we need. It must be done with courage, but also with intelligence, with tenacity but without fanaticism, with passion but without violence. And among us all, addressing the conflicts without being trapped in them, always seeking to resolve the tensions to reach a higher plane of unity, peace and justice" (10/28/14). Are you up to the challenge these words convey to restore human dignity to everyone. . .without exception?
Without exception. . .Hispanics and Latinos.
Without exception. . .Native and Black Americans.
Without exception. . .the poor, the homeless, the imprisoned.
To promote the dignity of every human person, without exception, is to create a world in step with the household of God.
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Ezekiel reading:
"As the Lord spoke to me,
the spirit entered into me and set me on my feet...."
When we are called upon to speak up for: the rights of others, conformity to God’s law and comfort for the afflicted, we need help. Being a prophet, even in the confines of our home, workplace, church community, or civil setting, is a risky and, some would say, a foolish business. People don’t like to change their ways of acting and thinking and they don’t like the one calling them to make those changes.
So we ask ourselves:
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:http://www.pfadp.org/
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fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736