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Ordinary Time 14 (B)
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Readings for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

 

1. Ezekiel 2, 2-5

  • It begins with the future prophet probably prostrate on the ground, because the first thing I hear is: The spirit entered into me and set me on my feet. 
  • Otherwise, the entire passage is made up of God’s command.  The Lord spoke to me.  It is a word of the Lord that promises more words to come.  You shall say to the Israelites: Thus says the Lord God!  This is a promise of more results, too, because God speaks and it comes to pass.
  • Twice I hear about a mission: I am sending you.  We end this and every mass with the same mission to the world.  How would God say they have rebelled against me?  Probably with infinite disbelief!  I hear lots of realism, as we do on the Mission: Impossible self-destructing tapes.  But I also imagine warm encouragement, as if God really loves these people, as if God can’t stay away and leave them to their stubbornness. 
  • We also hear the words that connect this reading with the Gospel for today.  Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they.  They are a rebellious house.  Did Jesus speak ironically in the Gospels about ‘a prophet’s welcome?’ 
  • Son of man.  And how will that phrase sound in my voice?  How would God address the prophet?  I don’t think in the informal style (‘Friend’) T. S. Eliot intended to convey in The Waste Land.  Probably more like the slightly formal way a mentor would say ‘Son’ to an understudy.
  • They shall know that a prophet has been among them.  I hear less of defiance in this parting sentence, than I do the sense of an unforgettable experience the people are about to have.  I will put most of my stress on the words ‘shall know.’
  • Central point: God will find ways to awaken even the most resistant people. 
  • Message for our assembly: The calling comes when and where we least expect it, including from other countries and ethnic groups.  Are we listening?
  • I will challenge myself: To speak about the presence of the spirit as if I know from an interior experience what that might mean.

 

2. II Corinthians 12, 7-10

  • Every year around the middle of February, from an early age, even before I began to study the Bible assiduously, I had heard the complete passage from this letter, of which only the ending is now proclaimed in our weekly liturgy.  The apostle is boasting of his hard labor and many misfortunes suffered in the service of the gospel.  So I know the context of this passage, and the intimations of the divine glory revealed to him, the abundance of the revelations.
  • But none of that in the passage we have today.  Instead, the apostle is burdened down with a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat me.  Many scholars think that he was referring to an innate handicap that hindered his effectiveness, perhaps epileptic seizures.  I will speak the words as if I had some physical shortcoming out of my control, that others might observe and hold against me.
  • Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me.  He says that he could not endure it and insisted on a total cure.  I will say it, with emphasis on the two verbs, as if his prayer is a legitimate one.  After all, didn’t Jesus cure epileptics?  But I will not give the impression that the apostle prays in utter desperation; it sounds to me more like the lament of Jeremiah in the face of his adversaries.  I want it (that it might leave me) to sound more like the frustrated hope of a dedicated servant: If you want me to do your work even better, can you help me with this big problem I’m having?  I don’t know how to handle it.
  • The church is the house where fortunes are reversed, where the last are first and the masters are the servants of all.  And here handicaps become strengths.  Power is made perfect in weakness. 
  • The second half of the passage shows the reversal, in fact.  The apostle’s trials are no longer obstacles to the spread of the good news but almost as greater guarantees.  Let me say I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints as if I knew a little about what the apostle is going through.  Yes, I have known personal setbacks, too.  Let me say for the sake of Christ as a phrase that keeps me going forward as it did him.
  • Climax: The unwelcome but saving revelation from the Lord.  My grace is sufficient for you.  It identifies the Christians at their best.
  • The message for our assembly: How many of us would speak as frankly as the apostle about ourselves, especially our weaknesses? 
  • I will challenge myself: To capture that level of frankness shown by the apostle, and that assuring filled-with-courage reply from Jesus.

 

Gospel. Mark 6, 1-6

  • This passage was one that we did not hear in church when I was young, maybe because no act of faith in the risen Christ is involved.  In fact, it is an utterly empty story, of a lack of faith at which Jesus was amazed.  Why does the church need to hear it now?  Why did Mark want to tell it to Christians then, two generations after Jesus departed this life?
  • I am reminded of the media coverage when a young athlete or rock star or politician returns home to a big parade and hometown pride.  But why is this homecoming different?  They took offense at him.  How could anyone!
  • Let me return to the Historical Jesus movement so prominent in our time.  This story once again hits the nail on the head.  Jesus came to his native place.  If any people were blessed by personal proximity to Jesus, it would be his fellow villagers who knew the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon and his sisters.  If we sought Jesus of Nazareth we would interview those who saw him grow up during those thirty years, right?
  • And listen to what they said.  Where did this man get all this?  Don’t they know even his name any more?  These are petty human responses, out of the movies and soap operas, and I can do them full justice.  What kind of wisdomwhat mighty deeds!  Right out of the ‘People’ section of the paper. 
  • That is the reason why Mark and the other evangelists found some way to include the reaction of the Nazarenes in every Gospel.  Our life as church has to do not with the man of mere history but the Son exalted by God.  We know Christ not by living beside him but by following him to our neighbor in need.
  • Climax: He was not able to perform any mighty deed there. 
  • Message for our assembly: The church, all appearances to the contrary, is not about whom we know but about the one in whom we have put our trust.
  • I will challenge myself: To put a twinge of regret in my voice, to match the amazement of the Lord.

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