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Homily. 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Independence Day 2021

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Ezekiel 2:2-5; Ps 123; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6

One of the realities of life is the presence of rejection and failure. At some point, everyone will encounter a “no” at work, at home or in the world. Our readings this weekend give biblical examples of expecting and accepting rejection and persevering despite the obstacles. Ezekiel, Paul and Jesus all encountered hostility, particularly when they gave messages that were critical and difficult for people to accept.

In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel is called while living during the Babylonian exile. God tells him to ready himself to deliver messages to people who have rebelled, warning Ezekiel that they would be “hard of face and obstinate of heart.” Despite the likely rejection, Ezekiel is still called to preach and teach. The prophet delivers his prophecies knowing the tough road ahead.

In the second reading, Paul too speaks of the challenges he faced, referring to “a thorn in the flesh…an angel of Satan.” Paul considers these hardships worth enduring in his ministry for the sake of Christ. He has come to learn that his own weaknesses are not a problem for God. Paul’s human limitations not only force him to be more realistic about himself, but they also force him to change his image of God. Paul discovers through his own handicap that God’s grace does work through human frailty. “So, I shall be very happy to make my weakness my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me, and that is why I am content with my weakness… For it is when I am weak that I AM strong.” Paul, like Ezekiel, accepts and recognizes the challenging but important work that he is called to do.

Similarly, our Gospel reading depicts Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth. As Jesus taught in the synagogue, people wondered aloud about his abilities and authority. They knew his family background, and some questioned his ministry, saying his actions were inconsistent with his upbringing and familial connections. Irrelevant issues are solemnly brought to the center of attention. In response to these skeptics, Jesus offers proverbial wisdom about prophets not being accepted in their homes. Our Lord appears to be at peace with the idea that his teachings may be rejected but is still amazed at the unbelief in his community. By coping with discouragement and failure, Jesus points beyond himself to the power of the Father. The cross of Jesus becomes the most striking symbol of weakness pointing beyond itself to the glory of the resurrection.

Finally, at the heart of this Gospel is hope. Our own rejections and failures are real enough, for instance, broken relationships and faltering friendships. There’s hope because our messy reality is not the end of the story. We can dare to be honest about failure and rejection, look it squarely in the face, live through it and even learn from it, because God in Christ has been there too. He has entered the depths of our human condition to rescue us, to share with us His risen life in the new creation. 

As we inevitably face rejection and failures, we are reminded today to maintain our tenacity and perseverance. The readings call us to consider and always focus on the matters that we can control. We can only experience interior peace and freedom once we learn to accept our limitations, the thorns that God permits in our lives. The readings also inspire us to heed the words of others, even if they are challenges to our status quo! In order to fulfill our baptismal calling to be prophets, may we rededicate ourselves to being formed, converted and changed by the word of God.

  • How do we deal with rejection and failure?
  • How do we react to challenging messages and recommendations?
  • What can you do to overcome obstacles?

 

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