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Saturday, 7 July 2012

Reflection/Homily: Fourteenth (14th) Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

Theme: The Familiarity of Jesus at Nazareth   
A priest-friend once shared with me an experience he had on a visit to his priest-friend’s native home. According to him, when he was about to leave, the mother of his priest-friend approached him requesting him to bless some water for her. He asked the woman why she didn’t ask her priest-son who has been at home for a week to bless the water and she quickly retorted, “Fr leave that one”.

One begins to wonder if she was over familiar with the priesthood of her son, or considered her son to be an unholy priest or was simply suffering from lack of faith. I believe, these types of dispositions are not unique to her but are generally seen in most places. Most ministers experience this type of neglect.

Such was the type of neglect and treatment Jesus received in his home town (Nazareth) as the gospel reading (Mk. 6:1-6) tells us. Jesus went about doing good elsewhere and returned to his home town that his people might have a share of his good works. Instead, in the presence of his disciples, he was received with over-familiarity, treated with contempt and listened to with unbelief despite the wisdom that came from him.

Today, God still has His messengers among us and just as the book of Hebrews says, they are chosen from among men. That is to say, they do not come from heaven but from a human family and society. These messengers who are called to work for their people still experience today, the kind of neglect and treatment Jesus received at Nazareth from their own people, those they are working for. They also suffer all kinds of tribulations, persecutions and physical assaults for the sake of the Gospel they preach.

However, for such messengers, the first reading (Ezekiel 2:2-5) reminds you today that God has sent you to the people you are working for. He knew how defiant and obstinate they are before He sent you. So do not be worried or afraid when they attack or oppose you and receive your word with unbelief. Even Christ and his disciples experienced such. It is one of the crosses of discipleship. Go on to do your work whether they listen to you or not “but know that they shall know there is a prophet among them”. The privileged few who will listen to you and believe in the Gospel you preach will receive salvation just as it happened in the Gospel reading.

It is also possible that a messenger could lose faith in himself and perhaps in the gospel and become over familiar with his work that he does it not with devotion but as a routine. This could be caused by depression when one begins to count on one’s weaknesses and failures or see oneself as unfit for the job. St. Paul in the second reading (2 Cor 12:17-10) experienced this kind of depression and prayed to God for help. Instead, God told him that His grace was sufficient for him.

As a minister of God, you can strive towards perfection but can’t be perfect while still on earth. You are a wounded healer but also a struggling fellow. Your success is not based on your righteousness but on the grace of God which is even more manifest in your weakness insofar as you do your best to avoid sin and depend on God. Therefore, even when tribulations come perhaps as a result of your weaknesses, stand firm and God will grant success to the works of your hands.

For those who represent the old Israelites, the modern day Christians, the message for you today is to build a strong faith in God, a faith that is not based on the righteousness of your minister. God can talk to you through a worthy or an unworthy person, through your priests, pastors, relatives, friends, customers, even enemies, etc. We ought to listen to Him through such persons despite our relationship with them. What matters most is the true content of the message and not the messenger. Even if you consider the person unworthy of carrying the message, it does not make the message unworthy neither does it invalidates the sacraments he celebrates.

In conclusion, do not only admire or appreciate the theological or scriptural foundations of a homily, or the priest’s manner of presentation or his sacred eloquence and oratory, but also believe in the message and try to live it out. So many people go to Church, get amazed and clap at the end of the homily but neither believe in it or carry them home. Some lose attention or even sleep if it is their priest-friend preaching or a priest they have known intimately. Remember, those who believed in the Gospel Christ preached went home with their problems solved. God loves you.

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