An opportunity to lean into God

By Fr. Michael Brennan, O. Praem. | For The Compass | June 30, 2021

At first glance, our readings for this 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time do not seem to offer us much inspiration or good news. They speak of a prophet being sent to a rebellious people, who are “obstinate of heart” (Ez 2:4).

We read of St. Paul’s encounter with “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints” (2 Cor 12:10) and, finally, our Gospel reading speaks of the rejection of Jesus in his hometown of Nazareth.

Where is the Good News? Where is the inspiration for our week ahead? Our inspiration comes from the approach that each takes when faced with rebellion, restraint and rejection.

The prophet Ezekiel knows he is being tasked with preaching the Good News to those who have chosen to rebel against God with obstinate hearts and closed minds. Despite this rebellion, he proceeds forth as a faithful messenger of truth, beauty and goodness.

When faced with the obstinate of heart, might we do the same? But what if we feel too weak to do so? Then we find ourselves in good company. For St. Paul reminds us today, “for when I am weak then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10).

Yet, St. Paul did not come to this resilient response immediately. Like many of us, St. Paul begged God to take away his pain, to remove the suffering from his life. After pleading with the Lord, he heard back from God, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (12:9).

When we find ourselves faced with our own weakness — our own struggles with sin, our own lack of motivation, our own “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints” might we recognize this as an opportunity to lean into God. As we accept our weakness, we can allow God’s power to be made powerful in our own shortcomings.

But what if we are rejected? When we are rejected, then we turn toward Christ.
Remember that Christ, God Incarnate, is rejected by many of those who knew him best. Despite rejection from those who could have been some of his greatest advocates, Christ remains resilient in the face of rejection.

If we live for Christ, we, too, will face rejection. Might we spend time reflecting on the rejection of the Christ on the cross … and the ultimate victory that his rejection brought. Our inspiration this Sunday comes from how we respond to rebellion, restraint and rejection.

To a similar point of facing the possibility of rebellion, restraint and rejection, C.S. Lewis once wrote, “There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

“But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

Fr. Brennan, vocation director at St. Norbert Abbey, De Pere, earned master of divinity and theology degrees from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

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