Our readings begin with God commissioning Ezekiel, a common son of man, to be his prophet to the Israelites exiled to Ba
bylon, modern day Iraq. It is the early sixth century B.C. and the Israelites have been crushed and demoralized. God appoints Ezekiel to challenge the Israelites’ past and present infidelities to the ways of God.
God states that the people have “rebelled and revolted against me to this very day” and “whether they heed or resist,” he is not to back down. The purpose will be that they know that a prophet has been among them, one who speaks the voice of God. Ezekiel will do this and in the end God will give him a happier vision of a restored Israel and Temple to share with the people.
Such boldness must have marked the prophetic words of Jesus that “astonished” the people in today’s Gospel. What did he teach that caused them to dismiss his mediocre family heritage as non-worthy of such authority? They knew him well; his cousins were all known by name. Who was he to challenge them? Or perhaps, who was he to offer visions of the Kingdom of God? “Where did he get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him … and they took offense at him.”
His rejection was so thorough that “he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people.” It takes humility to accept God’s ways and invitations to a new life. Without our cooperation and receptivity, the miracles in our midst are limited and our own graced transformation incomplete. God forces no one.
God’s desire to save and transform our world is ongoing. He speaks through his living voice in time, the church. Fallen humanity, however, is a rebellious house and we are quick to dismiss the risen voice of Jesus through the church as simply that of a “carpenter” and not God. Yet to those who open their lives to the truth as the church teaches it, an amazing transformation, even resurrection, awaits them.
An example of one who willingly opened himself to God is Paul. Paul marveled at the channels of grace God used to change him and called them his “weaknesses.” He describes them as “thorns in the flesh” to highlight their original unpleasantness. He begged the Lord to take them away, but the Lord simply said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
What was it that Paul first so rejected and later clung to as the very source of his new life in Christ? We too are beset with great struggles, yet the paradox of God is that in them is “the power of Christ” because here we can no longer rely on ourselves. It is he who must live in us, and if he lives in us now, he will live in us forever.
Questions for Reflection
1. Where am I still a rebel towards God?
2. What teachings of God through the church does the world reject?
3. Where in my life has power been made perfect through weakness?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.