Sunday Sermon for July 4, 2021, the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Ez 2:2-5; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6

In the first reading today God tells the Prophet Ezekiel that He is sending the Prophet to the people of Israel.  That sounds like something we would expect to hear.  However, the Lord then qualifies the situation, so the Prophet knows exactly what he is being asked to do and to whom he is preaching.  God tells Ezekiel that these people are “rebels who have rebelled against me.”  He also says the people are “hard of face and obstinate of heart.”

When we look at some of the other Prophets God chose and sent to the people, we hear similar things.  The work of a Prophet is to tell people God’s will for them.  This sounds like a great and wonderful thing, so why would God warn the Prophets about the people to whom He sends them?  Because, while the Word of God is indeed great and wonderful, the people did not want to hear it.  Mind you, these were not the pagans, these were the chosen People of God who were called by the Lord’s Name.

When the Prophet needs to tell the people to stop sinning, the people usually do not want to hear it.  It is amazing that the pagan people of Nineveh were willing to hear the Word of God as spoken by the Prophet Jonah (of course, Jonah, a Jew, did not want to preach the Word to them) and they repented.  On the other hand, the people God chose to be His own killed every one of the Prophets God sent because the people did not want to hear what God was saying to them.

Today, we are the children of God, but how many want to hear what our Father has to say to us?  Too many people have either walked away from Jesus completely or have watered down His message so badly that it is hardly recognizable.  Many people try to make a false Jesus in their own image and likeness and sit with the false confidence that since our Lord loves them, they essentially have His permission to do whatever they want.

When Jesus went into the synagogue in Nazareth, the majority of the people there would have been His relatives.  Most of them would have grown up with Him.  When they heard Him speak, they were astonished.  Unfortunately, this astonishment was not a good kind of being astounded; rather, we are told “they took offense at Him.”  Once again, a group of “faithful” Jews who go to the synagogue (probably weekly) did not want to hear what Jesus had to say.

How about us?  Do we want to hear Jesus?  Many give Jesus lip service while their hearts are far from Him.  In the second reading St. Paul speaks of the thorn in the flesh God gave him, an angel of Satan to beat him.  He begged God to take this thorn from him, but because God was allowing this for St. Paul’s purification, He told St. Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”  Today there are many who look at the Word of God as a thorn in the flesh; they want it removed.  God will still tell us His grace is sufficient, but unlike St. Paul, many of us are not willing to boast of our weaknesses; we want to be strong. 

God’s power cannot work in us very well if we are not willing to allow it to work.  God gave us free will, so we need to choose to allow Him to work; we need to choose to allow His Word to influence our lives.  Like the Jewish people of old, none of us can say that we do not know the Word of God.  God told Ezekiel: “whether they heed or resist . . . they shall know a prophet has been among them.”  In case Ezekiel had missed the point, God reminded him the Israelites were a rebellious house.  It makes you wonder what the Lord would say today!

Anyway, at the end of the Gospel reading today we are told that Jesus was amazed at the lack of faith He found in the people of Nazareth.  Would He be similarly amazed at you and me, or would He find someone who wants to hear what He says and live according to His Word?  Going to Mass on Sunday is not enough.  We need to choose not only to listen to the Word of God, but to embrace it and to live it. 

There have always been people who do not want to live holy lives; the same is true today.  We know the Son of God, not just a Prophet of God, has been among us.  What is our response?  Is it astonishment or acceptance and obedience? 

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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