Ezekiel 2:2-5/ Psalm 123/2 Corinthians 12:7-10/ Mark 6:1-6
Theme: Our Deepest Fear
Today, the Church celebrates our victory over our weaknesses. We celebrate the fact that as weak as we are, God chooses and uses us to accomplish much even when in the sight of men, we feel rejected (First Reading). Paul affirms the fact that we are still inadequate instruments in God’s hands and so this must humble us (Second Reading).Jesus, as the Son of God is presented to us as a model par excellence; one who was rejected by his own people and yet he never gave up on his prophetic ministry (Gospel).
In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel was sent by God to the people of Israel to warn them about their evil ways. Our society tends to think of prophets as predictors of the future, but Biblical prophets tend to do a little of that, but a lot more, they speak of the present; against the follies and foibles of society. To prove to the prophet that it was God who was at work in him, he was reminded that he is a mortal in the following words “O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you” (Ezekiel 2:1). It is God’s Spirit in us that propels our ministry. Without His Spirit, we are nothing or mere mortals.
God reminded the prophet that he was sending him to a stiff-necked people; ancient rebels. This is the basis for which God put His spirit in Ezekiel. The Spirit of God was to replace the spirit of despair that often characterizes our mission whenever we face stiff opposition. Whether the people will hear the prophet or not, his duty is to announce God’s message to show that no matter their rebellious attitude, a prophet has been sent to them. This shows that it is the desire of God that we change and turn to Him.
Once I was on Communion rounds during the Pastoral Year and there was an elderly homebound couple I took communion to. Their house had a wrought iron fence with a sign “Beware of Dogs” and each time I pressed the button ferocious barking would explode from inside the house. A young man would come out and ask me to wait while he put the dog in the bedroom and then I could go in. I took Communion there for 6months but never once saw the dog. There was a photo in the lounge room though of a beautiful ‘German Shepherd’ they called it. Towards the end of my time there I said to the lady of the house ‘Your dog must be very ferocious.’ She answered “Not really. She’s a very nice dog; it’s just that she’s afraid”. I thought to myself ‘The dog is afraid?’ By the sound of the barking one would never have guessed. But then I got to thinking a little more deeply.
To be perfectly honest, I had to admit to myself, some of my fiercest barking is caused by fear. It’s a trait we humans share with the animal kingdom, like the hair that stands up on animals to make them appear larger, our growls are often caused by fear. Fear wears many disguises and it is usually difficult to identify in others and almost impossible to recognise and admit to in ourselves. Think about it for a moment. Question yourself about why you say no to things. What disturbs you about others? Why do you dislike certain changes? Why are there certain things you do not do? Fear takes as many forms as there are human situations and, as I have already said, it often disguises itself, like that ferocious dog.
A critical look at the Gospel reading of today at first sight would reveal that the townspeople in the gospel had taken leave of their senses. They recognise the wisdom of Jesus’ words, they admit to the miraculous nature of his deeds, and then, strangely, they reject him. How very contradictory ?They have the evidence of greatness before them but they cannot bring themselves to accept it. What is the explanation for this startling state of affairs? Listen again to the townspeople’s complaint: “This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him” (Mark 6:3-4).
See how they are arguing for the familiar, the known, and the comfortable. They are rehearsing to themselves what they know, or think they know, about Jesus, what they are comfortable with. Other vocations to the priesthood or to religious life have caused similar major disruptions in families, particularly non-believing, or non-Catholic families. Imagine a Mormon family suddenly having Catholic priest in its midst; it changes everything for everyone, and not everyone appreciates being ‘redefined’ without their permission, so to speak. For the townspeople of Jesus’ hometown to accept his wisdom and his miraculous gifts would mean having to accept a number of other things as well, not the least of which is a new ‘pecking order’ in the social arrangements.
They would have had to accept that they had somehow been blind to the prophet in their midst and to admit this to one another. I think they were afraid of doing that. The very way they seem to insist on what they know about Jesus shows their discomfort, and I believe it was discomfort to the point of fear; fear of the unknown. There are many things we do, and refuse to do, out of fear. Beginning a real prayer life is perhaps one of the most common. To become a person of real prayer is to bring about a radical definition of one’s life and values.
Sometimes the fear not to exercise our prophetic roles stems from the fact that the people know we are weak like them. But our weaknesses cannot be a stumbling block to our prophetic duties. God allows it so we do not become too elated and proud like he told St. Paul in the second reading. Our assurance is that God’s grace is sufficient for us. His strength is made manifest in our weakness.
Self acceptance is the key to self transcendence. Marianne Williamson affirms this in her popular quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.”
In sum, let us pray fervently in this Mass so that God will grant us the needed grace to rediscover our prophetic ministry. Shalom