By MARIEFE REVOLLIDO
Aglipay Central Theological Seminary
Ezekiel 2: 2-5
Psalm 123: 1-2, 3-4
2 Corinthians 12: 7-10
Mark 6: 1-6
The calling and mission of the prophet Ezekiel is recounted in this brief passage. Ezekiel was a prophet during the period of exile in Israel’s history. It was a tumultuous time for the Israelites as their identity was stripped from them by the foreign superpower in Babylon. The exile was a consequence of the people’s rebellion against God. Amid the rebellion of most of the nation of Israel, Ezekiel was called to proclaim the truth of God to them. Today’s first reading tells about Ezekiel’s call. It was not an easy mission to which he was called. God warned Ezekiel that most people would not listen to him. God said to Ezekiel, âWhether they heed or resistâ¦ they will know that a prophet was among them. This illustrates that Ezekiel’s role was not to change people’s hearts. It was just to get the message across. It was up to the recipients to respond either by receipt or by rejection. Yet Ezekiel was to proclaim the word of the Lord to the people, regardless of whether they heeded or resisted it. He courageously accepted this mission.
In our second reading of 2 Corinthians 12, we see Saint Paul asking God to take away his weakness. But Paul comes to understand that God wants to use it, not because of his weakness, but because of his weakness. Because of his weakness, the power of God can shine more clearly through him without being obscured by Paul’s talents and natural gifts.
In the four short verses we see Paul shattering the meaning of his own apostolate by situating it squarely in the paradox of the cross of Jesus. He does this by exchanging paradoxes. It reverses the exalted / humiliated and power / weakness contrasts, stripping them of their usual appearance and giving them a surprising new meaning. Paul was not complacent in his suffering, he did not accept this ordeal without hesitation. He prayed for relief, not once or twice, but three times. All his correspondence shows that his ministry and not his personal advantage was at the forefront of his mind. For Paul learned that real power is in vulnerability, the more powerless one is, the more open one can be to the power of God. When Paul is weakest, enduring insults, trials, persecution, and duress, he is strong in the power of Christ.
In today’s gospel we hear of Jesus returning to his hometown of Nazareth after performing the wonderful miracles we have heard in recent weeks, including the calming of the storm and the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus. Despite these powerful signs and the authoritative teaching Jesus imparted in his hometown synagogue, people still expressed disbelief there.
This Gospel passage which describes conflict and rejection has also confused its interpreters through the centuries. Jesus returns to his hometown and is identified as his mother’s son. It is precisely because he comes from these people that he is rejected by them. The presence of his disciples suggests that the visit is more official than fortuitous. Jesus comes as a teacher. Adult men took turns explaining the scriptures in the synagogue. So the fact that Jesus did it was extraordinary. What shocked the crowd was the content of his message. It wasn’t the kind of astonishment that gave birth to faith. It was the kind that grew out of disbelief, skepticism and turned into rejection.
The point of the story is rejection by those who knew Jesus best but apparently understood him least, a situation which is not uncommon for those who have been drawn by God from the group to speak the word of God to this. group. The characters in this story did not have the faith required for the power of God to be effective among them.
Our meditation on Jesus continues, as this week he wears the heavy mantle of the prophet. The readings outline the main features of this messenger of God. They also describe the kind of rejection the prophet faces. One would think that Jesus’ extraordinary abilities and liberating teaching would have been readily accepted by people who eagerly awaited a revelation from God. It wasn’t, in fact many people struggled with the prophetic dimension of Jesus ultimately rejected him because of it. It is not easy to recognize a true prophet. Just because someone is making claims in the name of God, there is no guarantee that those claims are genuine. There may be signs that can help us recognize the true prophet, but even they are not always clear.
Being a prophet is difficult because the gospel message is difficult and sometimes controversial, but it is a message that people need to hear whether they like it or not. The prophet’s message will always be counter-cultural. The spirit of the voice and of prophetic values ââtoday is often at odds with the values ââof the gospel. It is especially difficult to be a prophet in your own hometown, in your family, and among others who know us well, yet this is what we are called to do. It is difficult to be prophets because sometimes we fail to live up to the high standards of the gospel. How many of us, for example, find it difficult to forgive our enemies. But there are two ways to avoid hypocrisy. One is to lower your standards. The other is to change your behavior.
Another reason why it is difficult to be a prophet is that no one wants to be considered sufficient. But the wisdom of the gospel is not ours. We should not pretend that it is the product of our own excellent minds or of immense life experience. We proclaim what we ourselves have received. Not to proclaim it would be unfaithful and ungrateful to God who revealed it to us. We must pass on the heritage that has been passed on to us. Without inheritance, each generation must start over.
It is also difficult to be a prophet, it is because you are afraid of appearing to be judgmental. Anyone who wants to live an authentic Christian life will struggle against the seductive call of the flesh and of sin. We know that we are not perfect people and therefore we must avoid making moral judgments on people, but we must clearly speak out against injustice. We must clearly stand up for what is right and denounce what is not.
This is especially true in our time when there are so many threats to human life from pandemic, hunger, controversies over vaccine deployment and availability, poverty, economic inequalities, social injustices and the climate change. The ever-present and persistent problem of the modern attack on our democracy, when our sovereignty is controlled by foreign powers, while our nation is engulfed by crises that those in power have created and where the same power uses crises as an alibi to restrict the civil rights of those who gave them power, at this time, where even religion is used by invoking the name of an unjust, racist, metaphysical god, where they create terrorist brands, those who oppose as the axis of evil. He demonizes all oppositions by quoting from the Bible: “He who is not with me is against me … We must be … in our faith and deeply rooted in the Gospel so that we are ready to analyze our present situation without dogmatic prejudices. a priori. â¦ “
We are called to be Moses, prophets, and to be the Church, we have ears but do not hear. Many of us fail to see the evil in our current society or interpret the signs of the times correctly, we are blind. Many of us remain spectators or spectators of a life drama in which we have no part. It doesn’t matter to usâ¦ When we run to the Lady of Perpetual Help, let us also be ready to help when those who need us come running to usâ¦ She offered her Son to be broken so that the Kingdom could be established.
Death threats, red marking and false accusations are on the ministry menu of many bishops, priests, pastors, lay ministers, community workers and organizers. It is an instrument to stifle the mission and ministry of nationalist and progressive churches and clergy by branding them âenemy of the stateâ for allegedly supporting revolutionaries and communists. It is not easy to be a prophet or to be a modern day prophet. It never was and never will be, but it is nevertheless what God calls us to be and he promises the reward of a prophet for faithfulness to our mission. On the other hand, if one prefers not to shake the boat, as Aristotle says âTo avoid criticismâ¦ say nothing, do nothing, and be nothingâ.
Carrying your cross and sacrificing yourself is really difficult. A prophet is not a fortune teller but someone who has the courage and the audacity to speak the truth in a particular context by announcing the good news and denouncing the evil that afflicts this society. It is the basis upon which a true prophet can project anything into the future. What remains to us are the precious words of Jesus and his guiding thoughts in learning the path of true service for the poor and oppressed. Jesus is more than a prophet, but part of his mission was prophetic. He proclaimed a message of moral reform, mercy, justice, compassion and salvation. When we were baptized into Christ, we were called to participate in Christ’s prophetic mission. May we be a prophet who gives voice to the voiceless and a light to those who know darkness in their lives. God bless us all.