by f. Luis CASASUS, Superior General of the men’s branch of the Idente Missionaries.
Madrid, July 04, 2021 | XIV Sunday in Ordinary Time
Book of Ezekiel 2: 2-5; 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10; Saint Mark 6: 1-6.
One day in the mid-19th century, a newly ordained priest was visited by a priest from another country which showed up at his front doorstep unaanounced and unkempt. He gave the man a room in the rectory attic. The young priest lived to see his visitor canonized as St. John Bosco. On hearing of his canonization, this priest remarked, If I knew he was a saint, I would have given him a better room.
Perhaps he fell short in his conclusion. What is important in the life of a saint, or of any person, is the singular presence of God in his or her life. In today’s Gospel we see something similar. The questions asked by the witnesses to the words and works of Jesus were justified and timely. Where did it all come from? How could someone who spent so many years fixing doors and plows have changed so much? The problem is that they were not consistent with those appropriate questions, because the answer was within their reach, but… they did not want to enter into the mystery, they were left with their logic and their passions, perhaps envy and pride. Instead of confronting the facts head-on, they evaded the whole issue by rejecting Jesus, simply because Jesus was a man who had lived among them.
In the First Reading we already see that Ezekiel was given a kind of impossible mission, that is, a person like him, who was just over 30 years old, was sent to confront the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their fathers have revolted against me to this very day. Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you.
“Son of man” is a Hebrew expression that means simple man, a fragile being, common, mortal. Ezekiel was proud to belong to a noble family; but God addresses him by a new name, son of man, to remind him of his humble condition, tied to the land. This is what matters in the life of a prophet: the contrast between his littleness and the divine power that sweeps him along. The prophet can be eliminated or, on some occasions, well received and acclaimed, the prophet can announce terrible events or a future of liberation and glory,but that is not the essential.
The Book of Ezekiel tells us today what is really important in the life of a prophet: They shall know that a prophet has been among them. The message may be understood or not, it may be accepted or completely rejected, but what remains an unmistakable sign is that the prophet is a messenger of God, he spends his whole life reminding us of God’s presence among us.
There is an expressive story which tells that Jesus, after the Passover, as He ascended into Heaven, He gazed down on earth and saw it in darkness, except for a few tiny lights in Jerusalem. On His way to Heaven He met the Angel Gabriel, who was accustomed to undertaking earthly missions. The Angel asked Him, What are those little lights? Jesus answered him, They are the Apostles that surround my Mother. This is my plan: once I return to Heaven, I will send them the Holy Spirit so that these small lights can turn into a great bonfire that will ignite the world with charity. The Angel dared to ask, And if this plan does not work because of the weakness of the disciples? After a moment’s silence, Jesus answered, I do not have any other plan!
God has no other plans. The apostles made mistakes, they were sometimes not very faithful, but they did not abandon their prophetic mission of announcing with words and deeds the presence of God in them and in every human being. What gives the prophet authority to speak in God’s name are not only the extraordinary gifts, but the fact that he was called, had received a vocation. Jesus certainly was not surprised by His own wisdom and marvellous powers. It was only normal for Him to have such wisdom and powers since He was one with the Father and His Spirit. Likewise, Jesus also promised us in the same vein, I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father (Jn 14:12).
Now it is our turn.
The famous text of St. Paul that we read today confirms the same idea: we can make mistakes and we are certainly sinners, we would like to have more talents and fewer passions, but the divine response we receive is always, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. God is not going to free his prophets from the fragilities related to the human condition, diseases, fatigue, defects. He wants that, through the weakness of the instruments, his power is manifested.
In what way do we perceive in a person that prophetic character, of announcing the active divine presence? More than in extraordinary actions or lessons, which not all of us will be able to do, it is in the capacity to always find the way to love. That is why we consider mercy and forgiveness so essential. It is impossible, in our own strength, to always forgive and have mercy on everyone. But the Recollection we receive in our mystical life shows our intelligence how to love in moments of despair, doubt, rejection or tiredness.
This is what we learn in Mystical Recollection, not lessons detached from our daily life, but answers to situations where love seemed impossible. At the same time, Mystical Quietude prepares us, with peace, gratitude and enthusiasm, to put into action that love which is only possible with the light of the Holy Spirit.
In today’s Gospel we are told that Jesus was not able to perform any mighty deed there because of the lack of faith of the people of his native place. This expression is relevant, since it downplays the importance of the healings that Christ DID perform, highlighting the character of authentic miracles, which are neither rare nor granted to a few people.
In fact, when Jesus healed those who came to him in various ways, the real miracle was the new way of serving, of loving generously, that these people displayed. For example, Peter’s widow, as soon as she was healed, felt the need to take care of everyone. The first disciples, when they received Jesus’ forgiveness after their manifestations of envy or pride, were intimately pushed to give their lives, as they did. In the final analysis, that is the ultimate fruit and the most relevant consequence of the healings that take place in us, to transform us into prophets of those who are our neighbors, as it happened to the Samaritan woman or to Zacchaeus.
We all encounter situations in which loving is not only difficult, but something we cannot imagine how to do, feeling helpless and frustrated:
– When a person we love is far away or suffers some evil that exceeds our ability to help.
– When we have been victims of deceit or scandal from someone close to us, whom we perhaps trusted and looked up to as a role model.
– When someone is compulsively chasing us because of envy, misunderstanding or mistrust.
– When we feel overwhelmed by the demands of someone, whom we feel lacks the necessary sensitivity to stop abusing us.
Prophets are always necessary because our sensitivity to the divine presence is weak, fragile and deteriorates with the things of the world and the storms of our ego.
Our unbelief, our way of judging what is important or not, in other words, our attachment to judgments and desires, prevents us from experiencing the true miracle of being able to love without interruption. The truly dramatic thing is that, we can prevent Christ from doing miracles and then we DO NOT KNOW what we have lost, what He was willing to give us, with the continuous generous willingness that He manifested when He arrived in Nazareth…. but He was not allowed to work miracles.
We cannot imagine how the Nazarenes’ lives would have changed if they had approached Jesus with faith. Keeping this in mind we should ask daily, as the disciples did: Lord, increase our faith (Lk 17,5), so as we may open ourselves more and more and let His love work in us.
This is Pope Francis’ conclusion on today’s Gospel:
God does not conform to prejudices. We must strive to open the heart and mind, to welcome the divine reality that comes to meet us. It is about having faith: lack of faith is an obstacle to God’s grace. Many baptized live as if Christ did not exist: the gestures and signs of faith are repeated, but they do not correspond to a real adhesion to the person of Jesus and to his Gospel. Every Christian, however, each of us is called to deepen this fundamental belonging, trying to witness it with a coherent conduct of life, whose guiding thread will always be charity. We ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, to dissolve the hardness of hearts and the narrowness of minds, so we are open to His grace, to His truth and His mission of goodness and mercy, which is addressed to all, without any exclusion (Aug 7, 2018).
The world is overflowing with beautiful speeches and does not need any more words. What the world needs above all is the word, the word that becomes witness. When the Gospel says that Jesus taught with authority, it means this: he was not making small talk, he was not making slogans. What, then, are we sent to say?
What we have heard. Watch Jesus: he does only what he has seen the Father do, he says only what he has heard from the Father. And this exclusive character of his love, more and more similar to that of Jesus, is what marks the life of a prophet.
When Christ says that A prophet is not accepted in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house, we should not think that he is referring to specific places or persons. The deeper message is surely addressed to those who, like you and me, have had the grace of being close to Jesus through the Sacraments, through the example of virtuous people and above all through His forgiveness.