14th Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 8
Ez 2:2-5, 2 Cor 12:7-10, Mk 6:1-6
What did the prophet, Ezekiel, do when opposition sprang up? What did Paul do when his personal world began to crumble? What did Jesus do when his long-term acquaintances in Nazareth dared to challenge his credentials?
For one thing, the three agents of God did not cave in. Their trust in God’s presence gave them the grace to keep on keeping on.
Ezekiel knew he was being sent to his rebellious countrymen and he knew that the task he faced was formidable. But he was strengthened by the Lord’s reassurance and by the spirit of prophecy that was bestowed on him. God says, “They shall know that a prophet has been among them.”
Paul, on the other hand, was afflicted by some “thorn in his flesh,” a malady or condition we are given no more details about. Like any of us when we fall sick, he prayed for healing. What he got for his prayers was a message from God: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
Those words were life-changing for Paul, even if they appear rather cold and impersonal to us. God’s power shows forth even when Paul is at his weakest. Paul doesn’t have to be “superman;” a bruised and battered Paul is enough for the Lord.
That response reassured Paul, as you can see if you read the rest of chapter 12 in this epistle. His work did not suffer — because the Lord made up the difference.
As for Jesus, I cannot but believe that the cool reception in his hometown was a source of deep disappointment. The Gospel passage says: “He was not able to perform any mighty deed there … He was amazed at their lack of faith.”
As far as we know, he never returned to Nazareth from that moment on. Nevertheless, his preaching of the kingdom expanded even more.
Personal setbacks and challenges not only did not deter our three main characters, they became motivation for an even more profound dedication to the work of the Lord.
So, how do the ups and downs of our lives affect our relationships with the Lord, and our willingness to do God’s will?
It’s a sad fact that often, when the ceiling caves in, our faith takes a big body blow. We immediately question God’s concern, God’s love for us. How could God allow such bad things to happen to such good people?
Paul’s experience speaks loud and clear: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9). That should be sufficient for you and me too. God’s grace, God’s gifts, God’s presence are enough.
Period. End of discussion.
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time July 15
Am 7:12-15, Eph 1:3-14, Mk 6:7-13
Six groups were appointed — two men in each group. They were to go as unburdened as possible, no food, no knapsack, no cash in their pockets, no change of clothes — just the clothes on their back, a walking stick and shod in sandals.
And their goal: change the world. Well, not exactly change the world in one fell swoop. That would be a bit much.
But Jesus sent the Twelve Apostles out to begin the process — to get people to change their way of thinking, i.e., to repent. Was that an impossible task?
Fortunately, there is a way to measure how successful those first missioners were. What does the world look like today 2,000 years later? Better than that, what do you look like as a follower of Jesus? Does your allegiance to Jesus make any difference in your life? Please take this question seriously, and be honest here.
St. Paul gives us a vision of who we are when he says God, the Father, has chosen us and blessed us with every spiritual blessing. He goes on to say that God accepts us as his sons and daughters through Christ.
So, in God’s eyes, we are something special indeed. But do we act like it? And does anyone else notice? Is the world better even by a fraction of an inch because you and I, believers in Jesus Christ, are on the premises?
We all can recite stories of men and women who have made a difference. There are, of course, the darlings of the media, show-business people, rock stars, athletes, politicians, etc. who the media would have us believe are the makers and shakers in this world.
They grab the headlines, and they have a lot of influence, good, bad and indifferent.
But we are talking about the “little” people here, people like you and I. We never appear on the 10 p.m. news; our lives go basically unnoticed by the public-atlarge.
Despite our relative unimportance in the big picture, we can effect significant change. We do it in small ways, in our families, in the workplace, on the street. We do it by creating a “zone,” an aura, of justice and charity and honesty and understanding and peacefulness all around us.
We cannot change others, but we can change ourselves. We can respond to the apostles’ challenge to repent by making our small, manageable world a place where God’s love is alive and well.
There’s no magic formula to bring this about. Just hear the word of God and act on it. That will do the trick.
O’Malley is a faculty member of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, former vicar for priests and pastor emeritus of St. Celestine Parish.