Homily given by Deacon Sam Mullen, Holy Spirit Catholic Church:
Featured in our readings today are three prophets; Ezekiel,
St. Paul & Jesus. Each rejected and scorned by the very people they were sent to deliver their prophetic message too.
The prophet Ezekiel in today’s 1st reading is among his own Israelite exiles, who’ve been taken off by the Babylonians into captivity.
These exiles needed to reconnect with their God who brought them out of slavery in Egypt and who was once again offering them freedom.
But they weren't open to a rebirth in that relationship. So God complains to Ezekiel that the people are just as rebellious as their ancestors. He calls them, "Hard of face and obstinate of heart…a rebellious house." Still, God takes the initiative and calls Ezekiel to be the prophet to them, because God doesn't give up on his people.
It seems the Israelites had settled in and become comfortable in a foreign land. When a chance to return to their native home was finally given them, the Israelites chose not to go back. They now fit in and even adopted the gods of the Babylonians, who looked stronger and more successful than Israel's God, especially in military battles.These exiled Israelites weren't so very different from us. When offered a chance to change, make some sacrifices; turn to a more faith-filled way of living, praying or serving, do we? Or like the exiles, have we settled in and accepted different values from those we profess?
I wonder what Ezekiel was doing that God had to "set him on his feet." Some say maybe he was prostrate in mourning for a nation gone astray.
As we celebrate America’s Day of Independence this weekend, we pray that God will not give up on us as a nation, but instead, keep sending the "Ezekiel’s" of our generation to help us through these trying times.
In our 2nd reading, Paul is defending himself, and his ministry, against those who doubt his authenticity; he describes the situation as "A thorn in the flesh was given to me." But he goes on to say, "I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecution and constraints, for the sake of Christ." This bold statement of St. Paul is one each of us should echo, are we content with weakness, insults, hardships for the sake of Christ?
And in today’s gospel, Jesus’ own town people explain how well they know him and how ordinary he seemed to them. He was a carpenter, Mary’s son; they were neighbors to his relatives for goodness sake. So they say, "Where did this man get all this?"
As was the case with all the prophets, Jesus’ ministry required him to speak the truth, and some truths are hard for people to hear.
Keep in mind however in this passage, Jesus’ neighbors weren’t denying his wisdom and mighty deeds; they just couldn’t accept that his message was from their God, the Holy of Holies, how could he be speaking through such an ordinary person, one of their own no less?
We could ask the same thing about ourselves. Is it possible that our God, the Most High, the Holy of Holies could be using ordinary people like you and me to reach out to our exiled brothers and sisters?
You might ask how are we in exile living here in beautiful East Texas. Well, how about when we experience an illness or infirmity that makes us feel like a stranger in our own body, or when we feel out of sync with the cultural values of the times, or beaten down by continual reports of terrorism, war and new diseases that can threaten our very existence.
Oh, we’re in exile alright. If for no other reason than none of us has arrived at the place we’ll ultimately call "home," that place where our Heavenly Father will set "all things" right.
What all this means is we, the "ordinary" people of Holy Spirit are called to be prophets. Each of us, through baptism has been entrusted with the Spirit of Truth and directed to carry the Good News of salvation, to all we encounter.
In light of the theme of today’s Scripture readings, I’ve often heard people say it’s harder to be a practicing Christian in their own homes, than it is in the workplace or with friends. "My kids won't listen to me." "My brothers and sisters think I am a religious nut." "My husband refuses to come to church with me," and so on. Just remember, "a prophet is not without honor except in his native place, and among his own kin and in his own house."
But also remember, the God who sends us to witness among our own, will be there to instruct, bolster and feed us, just as he did the prophets of old.
He accomplishes this during our liturgical celebrations, when he invites us to the Table of His Word to listen attentively to these Scripture passages and then put them into action.
And also by welcoming us to the Table of the Eucharist to partake in the life giving food that nourishes us and helps us stay focused and strong as we "ordinary people," the prophets of today, continue our faith journeys.
Let me leave you with this thought, you know God must have loved ordinary people, because he made so many of us. But every day, ordinary people do extraordinary things.