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Fourteenth Sunday – Year B – Ordinary Time
Readings: (Ez 2:2-5; 2Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6a)
Reading 1 (Ez 2:2-5):
As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me
and set me on my feet,
and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites,
rebels who have rebelled against me;
they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.
Hard of face and obstinate of heart
are they to whom I am sending you.
But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD!
And whether they heed or resist–for they are a rebellious house–
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.
Reading 2 (2 Cor 12:7-10):
Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Gospel (Mk 6:1-6a):
Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Things that prevent people to reach the truth.
On the journey to search for the truth, people need to know God, others and themselves. If they only know themselves, they are easy to oppose God and others. Moreover, when people only know themselves, they are easy to be arrogant and to insult God and others.
Today readings gave some reasons why people don’t believe in God. In the first reading, because of arrogance and rebellion, the Israelites lost the divine way for them. The prophet Ezekiel was sent by God to lead the Israelites back to Him. In the second reading, to prevent Paul’s pride, God let him suffer so he can recognize one important thing: his strength comes from God who works in his weaknesses. In the Gospel, though heard wisdom from Jesus’ mouth and witnessed miracles from His hands, Jesus’ fellow-countrymen instead of evaluated him on these values to believe in him, they evaluated him based on his family, position, relatives so they insulted and denied to believe in him.
1/ Reading I: The Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me.
1.1/ They are hard of face and obstinate of heart: The Israelites were called by God a rebelled nation. He described their characters to the prophet Ezekiel: “Son of man, I am sending you to 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.” Some characteristics of the rebels are:
(1) They don’t want to listen to anybody: They take themselves as the standard to judge everyone. They don’t want to listen to God or what He wants to tell them through the prophets.
(2) They are annoyed when they see others do things which are different with them: They not only disbelieved in God but also are annoyed when others believed in Him because these people disturbed their conscience. The Israelites seized and persecuted the prophets because the prophets didn’t rebel like them.
(3) Whatever they want, they do them: Like wild horses, they don’t want anything to limit their freedom so that they can do anything they want to. The author of Psalm 32 described the way to control the rebel: “Do not be senseless like horses or mules; with bit and bridle their temper is curbed, else they will not come to you.” The rebels don’t want to keep any of divine or human law; but they shall not last long because the law shall not tolerate them. Even though they may escape human law, they shall not avoid of God’s anger.
1.2/ Prophets are God’s instruments to point out their rebellion: God wanted the prophet Ezekiel to courageously say what God wanted to say, “But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord God! And whether they heed or resist–for they are a rebellious house– they shall know that a prophet has been among them.”
Prophets can’t be afraid of these rebels, but must be courageously accused of their sins, as God said to Ezekiel in other place, “But as for you, son of man, fear neither them nor their words when they contradict you and reject you, and when you sit on scorpions. Neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. But speak my words to them, whether they heed or resist, for they are rebellious” (Eze 2:6-7).
2/ Reading II: God’s strength is perfectly revealed in human weakness.
2.1/ Sufferings prevent people from being prideful: Before became Christ’s disciple, Paul was an eager and prideful person. He was very proud of his forefathers’ tradition and eager to persecute Christ’s believers, whom Paul thought that they instigated people to oppose the law of the ancestral. To teach Paul a lesson, Christ let him fall down to the earth and was blind. He also revealed to him the danger shall happen to the one who keeps raising his feet to trample the pointed thing. From that time on, Paul kept thinking about his extreme behavior and humbly let Christ guide his life.
In today passage, Paul reported another event which happened to him, “Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.” Through all of his Letters, we know that Christ himself appeared many times to Paul and taught him about the main mysteries. Because of Paul’s understanding of these mysteries, Satan was jealous with him and slapped his face because he doesn’t want anyone to understand these mysteries. Moreover, to know the mysteries is easily led the knower to be elated.
We don’t know what is “a thorn in the flesh” of Paul. Some said it is his fleshy temptation; others said it was a serious disease which Paul must endure; but the important thing he let us know is “a thorn” that prevents him from being too elated.
2.2/ Paul recognized that his strength came from God: Through Paul’s personal experiences such as his conversion and “a thorn in the flesh,” Paul clearly understood his prideful and weakness. He knew that if he didn’t have God’s power, he shall be blind all of his life, both physically and spiritually; but because of Christ’s love for him, he recovered his sight and understood Christ’s important role in God’s plan of salvation.
In today passage, due to his eagerness of preaching the Good News, Paul said, “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.””
Many of us has been in Paul’s situation. When we were eagerly preaching of the Good News or doing apostolic works, but some bad things happened to us such as disease, persecution, misunderstanding, etc. we wanted God to take away these obstacles with good intention so that we can be healthy and continue to serve God and others. Sometimes God has other plan for us, He might want us to slow down to have time to think more careful, or He wanted us to rest to prepare for a next difficult mission.
We need to learn a wise lesson as Paul when he said, “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” When we are at our most weakness, God’s grace will transform our weakness into the strong one so we can clearly see that God’s grace is at work in our weakness.
3/ Gospel: Why do people refuse to believe in Christ?
3.1/ Christ prepared for his fellow-countrymen so they can believe in him: In order to believe in Christ, people need many important factors. Christ prepared for them the followed things:
(1) He gave them an opportunity to encounter him: They didn’t go out and look for him; but he came back to Nazareth, his native place. He preached in the synagogue on the Sabbath.
(2) He gave them a chance to recognize God’s wisdom which was hidden in him: When Jesus preached in the synagogue, many of them were surprised and cried out: “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him?”
(3) He let them see he had God’s power: When they witnessed miracles which Jesus performed, they were astonished and cried out: “What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!”
3.2/ The fellow-countrymen didn’t recognize Christ: The main reason that led his fellow-countrymen didn’t recognize him is that instead of judging Christ himself and his words and deeds, they turned around and judged his family. They said, “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.”
An example which the Vietnamese had experience is all the examinations of the students after 1975. We used to joked with each other: “study is based on ability but examination is on familial background,” because instead of grading the exams, the examiners turned around and graded the students’ familial background. If a student is the child of “the former government’s officer” or belongs to a “rich family,” the examiners shall fail him before they grade his work!
3.3/ A prophet isn’t respected in his hometown: Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” This is a painful reality. The American people has an adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” The Vietnamese people has a similar adage, “Know dog, dog shall lick your face.”
(1) In his native place: Many of us have a tendency to magnify foreigners. For example, whatever belongs to American is good and nice; whatever belongs to Vietnam is ugly and bad. These people are influenced by fixed ideas because all nations have both good and bad things; not all Americans are good and not all Vietnameses are bad.
(2) Among his own kin: Many evaluated their fellow-countrymen on degrees, positions or properties. Today passage gave a reason why they insulted Jesus is because they knew of his family. A carpenter’s son couldn’t know the law! A leader who gathered all unknown disciples as Jesus couldn’t be famous.
(3) In his own house: Many of us also had this experience. We can’t understand why when we did to outsider only a small thing, such as: gave some instructions, gave a glass of water, introduced for a job, etc., they remembered and compensated us. While we did so many things for people inside our family, sacrificed for them to the point of death; but they are still ingratitude to the point that a “thank you” saying is also rare to hear. They think that we suppose to do them!
And Mark concluded: “So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.He was amazed at their lack of faith. He went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must discard the arrogant and rebellious attitude because it causes for us lots of damages. In reverse, we must obey God and keep Hid commandments.
– We must discard the prideful sense because it deceives us. In reverse, we should have a humble attitude to recognize our weaknesses and limitations.
– When we must judge, we should judge that event or the person who did that event. Don’t judge things or people that aren’t related to that event.