Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Prophet without Honor

                           14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s first reading the prophet Ezekiel is warned that his mission will be difficult. Though he is being sent to his own people, the Israelites, he should not expect a warm welcome.

"Hard of face and obstinate of heart
Are they to whom I am sending you."

This passage from the Hebrew scriptures is obviously an introduction to today’s gospel reading. Today’s passage from Mark picks up right after the words we heard last week where Jesus had worked some miracles in a land with a mixed population of Jews and pagans. Even though he was not a native of this territory, his reputation had preceded him and crowds swarmed around him. A woman just had to touch his cloak to be healed, and he had even raised the young daughter of a synagogue official from her deathbed. In both cases it was faith that worked the miracle.

But today we read that Jesus returned to his own native land and rather than receiving a hero’s welcome the people who knew him could not believe. Even when the wisdom of his words when he spoke in the synagogue amazed them, they could not believe their ears.

How could he be so smart? They knew he was just a carpenter or the son of a carpenter. They knew his mother, Mary. Was she any different from any other Jewish mother? They knew his brothers and sisters. Scholars tell us not to take these words literally. The words brother and sister could mean just cousins or kinfolk. In any case, there was nothing special about any of his relatives.

We are told that his neighbors took offense at Him leading Jesus to utter the famous reply.

A prophet is not without honor except in his native place 
And among his own kin and in his own house.

It is always good for us to put ourselves in the place of those mentioned in the gospels. Today we should put ourselves in the place of the hard hearted or hard headed Israelites of Ezekiel’s time, or the neighbors of Jesus who could not believe or understand.

Haven’t we all had the experience of underestimating someone that we knew very well? Aren’t we surprised sometimes to find out that a brother or sister, a son or daughter has done very well in their chosen profession? Has any of us had the experience of going to an awards banquet and discovering that someone we thought we knew was highly regarded by strangers? Sadly, don’t we all often fail to realize how gifted or talented our own husbands and wives might be? We all love to get recognition but it is so hard to give it.

On the other hand, it is hard when we fail to receive recognition for what we have done or for who we are. From children to senior citizens we all want to get our just desserts. The gospel says that Jesus was amazed by the lack of faith of his hometown neighbors. We can understand because we are often ignored by those closest to us. It has often been said that if business men or women would treat their spouses with the same respect they treat their clients, their marriages would be much happier.

In today’s second reading St. Paul expresses a similar kind of disappointment. He knows that God has given him a great gift but that God has also humbled him so that he will not become puffed up.  He knows that he will not always succeed or get the recognition he desires but still he will carry on. It is better to trust in God than in yourself.

I am content with weaknesses, insults, 
Hardships, persecutions and constraints,  
For the sake of Christ,  
For when I am weak, then I am strong. 


Reading 1.  Ezekiel 2: 2-5
Reading II. 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10
Gospel. Mark 6:1-6 (a prophet without honor)

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