“My Grace is Sufficient for you!”
This weekend we celebrate the Fourth of July. We are grateful for our country, and we want to be good citizens. That includes voting and other forms of political involvement. The best thing we can do to become better citizens is to be better Christians. A couple of years ago USCCB issued a document “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the United States Bishops’ Conference expresses concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. We observed and prayed for Religious Freedom from June 22 through 29. Freedom to teach and celebrate our faith. Let us keep these thoughts in our prayers. Happy July 4th!
This weekends reading presents the theme of rejection. In the first reading, Ezekiel is commissioned to preach to rebellious Israelites, who are rude and stubborn. The prophet Ezekiel lived 600 years before Christ, before, during, and after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem. While the false prophets were consoling Israelites, God appointed Ezekiel to warn his people about the destruction that was to come if they did not change their ways. God warns Ezekiel that as a prophet he would not have an easy job, and has to face rejection. The first reading prepares us to listen to the Gospel.
Gospel of Mark presents Jesus’ rejection in his own Galilean village, Nazareth. In the first reading, Ezekiel is a priest and prophet. In the Gospel, we see the eternal priest and prophet. When Jesus came to his native town and went to the synagogue and taught, everyone was astonished and asked one another, “Where did this man get all this?” We see other times also people expressed astonishment in his teaching. For example, after the Sermon on the Mount, the crowds are in admiring astonishment at Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 7:28); but here the astonishment is of those who take offense at him (Mark 6:2). Another question was raised, “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? (Mark 6:3)” Catechism of Catholic Church says that it is Jesus’ cousin or relatives. Catechism says, “James and Joseph, "brothers of Jesus", are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls "the other Mary" (CCC500).”
Like Ezekiel and other prophets, Jesus was persecuted and rejected. We saw in the first reading; God warns Ezekiel about rejection. At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about the rejection that his disciples were going to face, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me (Matthew 5:12).”
Jesus uses a common proverb, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house (Mark 6:4).” Jesus is often called a prophet in the Gospels. We see in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowd said, “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee (Matthew 21:11).” The Samaritan woman at the well says, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet John 4:19).”
One side Jesus commonly accepted as prophet and people place their trust in him and witness miracles. On the other hand, Jesus is rejected by his hometown people. Both events prepare for the great mystery of his passion, the death of Jesus.
The second reading St. Paul humbly says that he knows he can be weak, in fact, he speaks about a thorn in the flesh that he prays that God would remove, but he says that his own weakness shows the Power of God in his words. Many have become followers of Christ, not because of Paul but because God worked through this weak man. Paul was content with weakness and hardship for the sake of Christ. He surrendered to God’s love; God’s grace is sufficient for him. Through the grace of God, we too will be able to face the hardship and challenges as a disciple of Christ.