Those who expect God to work mighty deeds in mighty ways on their behalf shouldn't listen to Sunday's readings. Our three sacred authors aren't familiar with that kind of God.

If there's one group of people who should be able to rely on God stepping into their lives at key points, delivering them from danger and problems, it's God's prophets. After all, they're Yahweh's mouthpiece, the conscience of their people, the chosen individuals through whom Yahweh communicates with Yahweh's people.

Throughout Scripture, the normal way to discover God's will is to surface and listen to the prophets. They're essential to salvation history. Yet God often lets those individuals twist in the wind, rarely stepping in to help even when their lives are in danger.

God warned you
Ezekiel (Ez 2:2-5) can't say he wasn't warned about this. In calling him, Yahweh first warns him of the rebellious personality traits of those to whom he's sent - that they're "hard of face and obstinate of heart" - and then basically says, "Their will to resist you will be stronger than your ability to convert them."

Because of covenant responsibilities, God must send prophets to the Chosen People. But God's under no obligation to force anyone to listen to those prophets.

Weakness, not strength, seems to be the name of the prophetic game. Even Jesus discovered this reality (Mark 6:1-6). If He had any doubts about the power He possessed, His return to Nazareth immediately removed them. His hometown folk know who He really is: "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?" In other words, "Who does this guy think He is?"

This is the only place in the Christian Scriptures which mentions Jesus' occupation. It's not meant to be a compliment, else Matthew wouldn't have later changed it to the "son of the carpenter." Carpenters were not highly thought of in Jesus' day.

Need for faith
Even more important is Mark's comment that Jesus was "not able to perform any mighty deed there....He was amazed at their lack of faith." The historical Jesus depended on people's faith. Without it, He was powerless. Matthew had problems with that, so he switched "not able to perform" to "He did not perform" - a huge difference!

Our evangelists had the same problem as the people of Nazareth. As the Gospels progress (from Mark, Matthew and Luke to John), Jesus becomes more and more God and less and less human. There's no way John, for instance, would ever say there was something his Jesus couldn't do. Jesus becomes much more than just the village carpenter. Gospel theology always trumps historical reality.

Yet, writing at least 10 years before the first Gospel, Paul (II Cor 12:7-10) takes us back to that reality by mentioning his "thorn in the flesh." Whatever that is, it's a constant reminder of his weakness, even in the midst of his prophetic ministry, and it leads him to utter one of Christianity's most important statements: "For when I am weak, then I am strong."

As humans, we want to have power over others. But as our ancestors in the faith discovered, God only works through the powerless.