1st Reading – Ezekiel 2: 2-5
Abraham Heschel describes a prophet as, “a person, not a microphone. S/He is endowed with a mission, with the power of a word not his own that accounts for his greatness –but also with temperament, concern, character, and individuality. It is not only what s/he said but also what s/he lived. The prophet was an individual who said No to his/her society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism,” (The Prophets, p. x-xv).
When have you been obstinate of heart? Did you wish God set your feet straight? What prophets are among us now? How are we prophets?
The daily reflection from http://onlineministries.creighton.edu says, “We are prophets when our lifestyle reflects an alternative to the easy conformities of our cultures.” We must live as we are meant to live. But the right way to live isn’t always the easy way. Ezekiel is trying to convince a people who see God as a tyrant that he is a prophet for them. Not an easy task.
The term “Son of Man” gives emphasis to the human being who is to be the bearer of the divine message. Ezekiel saw himself as called to this title; so did Jesus. (R. Fuller, “Scripture In Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
2nd Reading – 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10
What do you make of this? It is questionable what Paul’s burden is, but we all have our own weaknesses and burdens. Some commentators say he had epilepsy, some an ophthalmic condition or maybe depression. From http://liturgy.slu.edu, “But if, like him, we learn to be ‘content with our weakness, for the sake of Christ,’ we may one day find ourselves unleashed, our hearts emboldened, our words firm and free.” Think of St. Kateri and her suffering from small pox and not being able to see well. She is quoted to have said, “I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus.” Are you willing to give yourself over completely, weaknesses and all?
But Paul did not use excuses to limit his life. He knew vividly his own problems and difficulties – he even begged many times to be relieved of the ‘thorn in his flesh.’ But perhaps through his prayer he came to realize that none of his ‘work’ was about his weakness – but it was about trusting that God’s grace was sufficient for whatever was necessary. He learned to be content with weakness for the sake of Christ “in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.” Like Paul, when we are weak, it is then that we are strong – in and with the Lord. (John Kavanaugh, S.J., “The Word Encountered,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
The Gospel — Mark 6: 1-6
Do you find this true in your own life, when you return to your hometown or see friends and family from your past? Where are you in this story?
Most scholars think that this passage has a ring of historicity. It is probably unlikely that the early church would have told stories about Jesus being rejected in his own hometown if it were not based on a real event. It was probably a very important story for them because they themselves often experienced rejection of their own when they tried to share ‘the Jesus story’ with their families and close acquaintances. And, of course, as Jesus will soon begin his journey to Jerusalem, this rejection will culminate in the horrible rejection of the cross. But even that horror will not end the truth and power of his life and word. (R. Fuller, OSB, “Scripture In Depth,” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
In Jesus’ culture there was no expectation of ‘doing better than one’s parents.’ In fact honor required that a person stay in their inherited status and make no effort to improve on it. Any effort to ‘better oneself’ was seen as a threat to others. So Jesus aroused anxiety on this point alone. Then, craftsmen at this time – especially those who lived in small hamlets like Nazareth – had to leave home to find work. They had to leave their women and children at home without proper male protection. Such craftsmen were, thus, looked upon as ‘without shame.’ How could such a one have such power and wisdom? “And they took offense at him.” (J. Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context” http://liturgy.slu.edu )
From Jesus: A Pilgrimage by Fr. J. Martin:
In consulting with 1st century archeologist Jonathan Reed, a Jewish village of that size at the time would not have had a synagogue. There has been no evidence discovered yet. People would have most likely gathered outside, like an open space in the village, or maybe the courtyard of a wealthy homeowner (115). Picture Jesus in that setting. It is likely that Jesus knew how a message of openness to the Gentiles would be received in his hometown. Nonetheless he is fearless. How? Courage from grace, yes. But he also had a freedom from any desire for approval from the people in Nazareth. He needed only to be true to himself. He loved the people of Nazareth, but he saw beyond that (125). How often do we worry about what people think of us? Does it keep us from moving forward?
Let us pray Jeremiah’s Prayer (10:23-25):
Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own;
it is not for them to direct their steps.
Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure—
not in your anger,
or you will reduce me to nothing.
Pour out your wrath on the nations
that do not acknowledge you,
on the peoples who do not call on your name.
For they have devoured Jacob;
they have devoured him completely
and destroyed his homeland. AMEN
“So who would want to be a prophet? Compared to the respectable philosopher, the prophet is a dumpster dweller. While the philosopher lives in the mansions of the mind, the prophet is homeless in the streets of everyday facts. The philosopher gives lectures on good and evil in general, while the prophet rants against this particular evil. And while the guru calmly encourages the good life in theory, the prophet threatens hellfire against this practical bad life…The prophet feels fiercely. God has thrust a burden on his soul…For the prophet, no one is just enough, honest enough, faithful enough, good enough, godly enough,” (Smith, Fr. James, Celebration Jan 2001, “Called To Be Prophet”).
Do you want to be around a prophet? How are you like a prophet? At our baptism, we are anointed as priest, prophet and king. The Hebrew word for prophet is nabi, or “the one who was called” by God. Prophets:
- challenge the lifestyle of their contemporaries.
- proclaim the covenant (that God wants a personal relationship with us).
- insist on justice for all (Zannoni, A., Scripture From Scratch Sept. 1994, “The Biblical Prophets: Challenging role Models”).
Jeremiah was born about 650 BC. Jeremiah began to prophecy in the 13th year of King Josiah’s reign, about 626 BC (only 21 years old!). He is said to have come from a priestly family of Anathoth, a village 4 miles NE of Jerusalem, (Andersen, B., Understanding the Old Testament, p. 300). He supported the reform of King Josiah which began in 629 BC. Ninevah, the capital of Assyria, fell in 612 BC, preparing the way for the new colossus, Babylon, which was soon to put an end to Judean independence. But King Josiah died, and the old idolatry returned. He opposed it with all of his being. Arrest, imprisonment, and public disgrace were his lot. Nebuchadnezzar took swift and terrible vengeance, destroying Jerusalem in 587 and sending the people into exile. Jeremiah remained amidst the ruins of Jerusalem but was forced into Egyptian exile until he was murdered by his own people. They appreciated his words after his death (The New American Bible: Saint Joseph Edition, p. 892-893).
The book of Jeremiah is more like an anthology ( a collection of writings).
Chapters1-25: prophetic oracles with some biological narrative inserted.
Chapters 26-45: more biological narratives with occasional sermons
Chapters 46-51: oracles against the nations
Chapter 52: the fall of Jerusalem (from II Kings 24:18-25:30)
Theologians seem to think that Jeremiah wrote most of the writings, with editing done by his scholar Baruch and later writers (Andersen, p. 327-328).
Jeremiah’s call: “I see a branch of the watching tree.” (1:11) This is an almond tree, which the Hebrew called shaqed, or “the watcher” (shoqed means “watching”, a play on words). Its white flowers are the first to bloom in the spring and seem like hundreds of eyes covering the tree. “Well have you seen, for I am watching to fulfill my word.” (1:12)
The main theme is to indict Jerusalem for its disobedience to YHWH’s Torah and to sentence Jerusalem to the punishments that follow upon Torah disobedience. Jeremiah does this primarily using the Lord’s voice. He wants to make it very clear that this is how God feels and he is only the instrument for God’s communication. He does so using many words from nature and aspects of everyday life. Consider his audience! What spoke to you in these chapters? How do you compare these people to today and your life?
Jeremiah makes reference that even before he was born, he was meant to do this work of prophecy. Have you ever felt that kind of certainty?
Closing Reflection from Abraham Lincoln:
In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all…
It comes with bitterest agony…
Perfect relief is not possible, except with time.
You cannot now realize that you will ever feel better…
And yet this is a mistake.
You are sure to be happy again.
To know this, which is certainly true,
Will make you come less miserable now.
I have experienced enough to know what I say.
My sisters and brothers, the life of a prophet is a tough life. Jeremiah was not scared in vain. Just as people wanted to kill Jesus in today’s reading, they always wanted to get rid of prophets because prophets spoke the truth. Today we see how Jesus confronts the people almost without words; he calmly walks among those who wanted to pull him and throw him down the hill, and goes on his way, fearlessly.
Perhaps the situation is unfamiliar for us. But we have heard of people in Central America, Africa, and Asia who have been killed because they spoke the truth and struggled for justice. We might also find it hard to believe that things like that could happen to us in this country. Today’s gospel, however, has something to say to our lives.
Have we never been afraid to say the truth or to defend justice because of fear of being rejected, laughed at, or retaliated against in our work, school, or in our neighborhoods? The scene of the gospel today has real people threatening Jesus.
We need to think a little bit further about who or what seems to be threatening us. What or whom do we have to confront? Because it might be that sometimes we don’t even see or realize the threats around us, and, without realizing, we are being led to behaviors that do not really agree with our Christian values. I am sure you have heard the expressions, “Everybody does it,” or “Everyone has one,” or “Why can’t we have all the things that our neighbors have”? TV programs and commercials might be pushing us into spending beyond our means or into thinking that faithfulness in our marriages and relationships is not really all that important. On the other hand, our desire to always have more and more could lead us to less than honest practices at work and even in our daily life. And why, because everyone else is doing it! Are we aware of those pressures on us? Do we confront them honestly? Are we, like Jeremiah, afraid that people might laugh at us, reject us, or persecute us because we are going against the grain?
How do we help our children to think critically about what is going on around them and to keep our values and traditions? As a family, how do we help one another to resist these pressures in our ordinary lives?
Friends, Jesus walked calmly among the people who threatened him. He knew that God’s power, as had been promised to Jeremiah, was with him. We can be sure that that same power will protect us. We are not likely to have to confront others violently: we need simply continue on our way firmly and with the certainty that God wants us free, free to do good each and every day. And why? Not because everyone else is doing it. But for the simple reason that through our own Baptism we too became prophets and we know that God is with us.