Our Common Call
Homily for July 8, 2018 (14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, B)
In his classic Civil War novel, The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane writes:
“A serious prophet upon predicting a flood
should be the first man to climb a tree.”
This reflects a common perception
that prophets are people who can predict future events.
But that’s just one dimension of the prophet’s ministry.
It’s not even the most important part.
In fact, even when they have the gift of foresight,
the prophets of the Bible are much more concerned with the present.
The word of God today reminds us that prophets have a three-fold mission:
and to renounce.
In our first reading, God instructs Ezekiel to announce to the people
a divine message: “Thus says the Lord….”
Ezekiel was commissioned by God to be a prophet in exile.
He began his ministry
five years after he and all but the poorest residents of Jerusalem and Judah
were deported to Babylon.
It was a time of national calamity.
The temple had been looted and destroyed.
How could this happen to God’s chosen people?
The answer was sin:
People had turned from God to worship idols.
They disregarded their covenant with God.
They ignored God’s laws.
They exploited the poor and ignored their needs.
They had become a rebellious people, “hard of face and obstinate of heart.”
They would remain in exile for 70 years.
Jesus was sent among his people with a message from God, his Father:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
While many welcomed this message,
those closest to Jesus rejected it.
In fact, they took it personally:
“they took offense at him.”
They could not accept that one of their own,
the son of a carpenter,
someone they thought they knew so well,
could preach so powerfully and do such mighty deeds.
Jesus could only denounce their lack of faith,
which was so profound it “amazed him”
and discouraged him from doing much except curing a few sick people.
Paul, who faced similar suspicion and hostility,
felt both defensive and humbled.
He often insisted
that he was as good and as authentic as any other apostle.
But he also recognized
that he was a human being
and a sinner afflicted with “a thorn in the flesh”
that he could not remove by his own power.
So he renounced any status he could claim:
”I will rather boast most gladly of my weakness…”
In his weakness he found an opening for the Holy Spirit to work.
Most of us don’t think of ourselves as prophets.
But as disciples of Jesus,
all of us share a prophetic dimension to our calling.
When we were anointed with the Sacred Chrism following our Baptism,
each of us was commissioned to be
“forever a member of Christ, who is priest, prophet and king.”
We share a common call
to announce the Good News,
to denounce sin
and to renounce our pride
so that Christ may live in us and continue to transform the world. +