Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Ez 2:2-5
2) 2 Cor 12:7-10
Gospel: Mk 6:1-6
When God sends Ezekiel to speak to fellow Israelites (our first reading), he alerts him to the fact that they will resist him. The Israelites are “rebels,” God tells the prophet. “Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you.” They will not welcome his call to repentance.
My reaction to Scripture readings like this is to try to identify who God might have in mind for these words today. What types of people out there would God be thinking of? People outside the church? Some people inside the church? The answer I do not easily come to is me. After all, am I an obstinate rebel? “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” as Judas said to Jesus (Mt 26:25).
I’m generally willing to give myself the benefit of the doubt, to offer reasonable explanations for my failures to love, to cut myself some slack. Doesn’t God do the same for me?
In the Byzantine Catholic liturgy (I’m a Byzantine Catholic) the congregation prays before Communion: “O Lord, I believe and profess that you are truly Christ, the son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first.” Often the question pops into my mind, Am I really the foremost of sinners?
Some words of Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard help me here. On Jesus’ teaching that a tree is known by its fruits, Kierkegaard wrote:
“The holy words of our text are not spoken to encourage us to get busy judging one another; they are rather spoken warningly … to you, my reader, and to me, to encourage each one not to let his love become unfruitful. … The divine authority of the Gospel speaks not to one man about another man, not to you, the reader, about me, or to me about you, no, when the Gospel speaks it speaks to the single individual.”
On this principle, the Ezekiel reading is addressed to me. It is as though, at the end of the reading, I might hear the prophet Nathan saying to me what he said to David after he told David a parable that reflected David’s murder and adultery: “You are the man!” (2 Sm 12:7).
In response, the best prayer I can think to pray is what a blind man once said to Jesus. “Master, I want to see” (Mk 10:51).
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Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.