FROM A READING FOR JULY 8, 14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
‘Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house”...’ — Mark 6:4


The Gospel passage and readings for Sunday give us several lessons with which to pray.

The first one is straightforward: what to expect when you bear witness to your faith.  

We walk in the footsteps of the Son of God, and the Gospel this Sunday (Mk 6:1-6) tells us that Jesus Himself was rejected by His own kith and kin.

Jesus has returned to His  hometown and taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath. The people are incredulous and take offense at His teaching — not about the doctrine, it would seem, but about His audacity in presuming to teach them.

They think they know Him because He grew up there. Instead of evaluating His teaching on its own merit, they dismiss it because He is “the carpenter, the son of Mary.” Thus, they close themselves off from not only His words, but also His divine power, by their unbelief.

We, at times, will be rejected because of our belief in Jesus. We can expect that.

180 degrees

Now, flip that story around and the second lesson stands out. Imagine that you are among those who dismiss Jesus’ words outright because you think you know Him and what He can or cannot do.

We do that to other people all the time. We do it to God, too. When we judge based only in natural experience, we become incapable of hearing another person and being present to him or her.

This type of prejudice can be overcome, however. As soon as you hear yourself say, “He always does that,” or, “She’ll never come around,” know that you have dismissed that person and his or her impact on your life — an impact that may be for the better.

The second lesson, then, is to give people a hearing, even when you think you know what they will say or do. Doing so opens up an avenue for grace.

Resisting God

The third lesson deals with weakness. St. Paul, the Apostle and evangelist, describes his mission as a series of hardships in Sunday’s second reading (2 Cor 12:7-10). He even says that an angel of Satan was allowed to beat him.

The difficulties are not pointless, however. The reason that God permitted Paul to experience his weakness, as Paul himself explains, was twofold: first, so that Paul would rely entirely upon Christ; second, so that Paul would not become proud.

The figure of the prophet Ezekiel in the first reading (Ez 2:2-5) teaches an analogous lesson. The people to whom God sent Ezekiel were described as “hard of face and obstinate of heart.” God’s message to Ezekiel could equally apply to us: Expect to meet resistance.

But there is more that is applicable to us than just commiserating with the difficulties of evangelization. We also must reflect on our workplace, family life and community and ask: “Where do I experience my weakness? What are my hardships?”

Those are the areas that must be turned over to Christ. In the same way that Paul did, we must bring the area of pain or of woundedness to God in prayer. We can do this at any time, but especially at holy Mass, at eucharistic adoration, saying the Rosary in the car and so on.

In a second moment of reflection, think of that last line from the prophet Ezekiel: “They shall know that a prophet has been among them.” Now, look at those relationships at home, at work, at school, and ask yourself: “Do they know that a Christian has been among them? Does my wife know every day that she is married to a Catholic? Do my kids know today that their mother is a Catholic?”

If the answer is no, that would be a good place to start to change.