Sunday, July 5, is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B).
We like to watch Independence Day YouTube videos with the family: Red Skelton’s Pledge of Allegiance; Johnny Cash’s Ragged Old Flag, Ronald Reagan’s “We Are Americans,” JFK’s “The rights of man come from the hand of God” — and especially St. John Paul II’s “Be Not Afraid speech + Words to America.”
Ezekiel 2:2-5; Psalms 123:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6
A story told about Father John Kavanaugh’s encounter with Mother Teresa as a young priest is a good illustration of this Sunday’s readings.
The young priest who would become an important philosopher (he died in 2012) struggled with the question of what he should do in his priesthood. Should he continue to serve the poor in the obscurity of Calcutta? Or should he enter academic life?
He decided to ask Mother Teresa to pray for him to be given the gift of clarity.
“I was surprised when she said she wouldn’t pray for clarity,” he said. She called his desire for clarity an attachment that he needed to let go of. “She said what I needed was trust.”
Father Kavanaugh told Mother Teresa that she seemed to be certain of what she should be doing at all times.
“She said that she never had clarity; that all she had was trust,” he recalled.
Today’s readings are about the lack of clarity and the need for trust in the Christian life.
St. Paul reports a mysterious “thorn in the flesh,” which he asks to be removed. His request, like Father Kavanaugh’s, is denied. Instead, he is told: “My grace is sufficient for you.”
He is told to trust, and trust he does, despite “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints, for the sake of Christ.”
Ezekiel has a similar experience in our first reading. The Lord tells him to do something strange: “I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day. Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you.”
His job is simple: Share God’s truth. “Whether they heed or resist,” says the reading, “they shall know that a prophet has been among them.”
What, if anything, he will accomplish is unclear. But he is clearly called to trust.
The exemplar is Jesus Christ himself.
Jesus preaches in the synagogue in his hometown and is met with rejection.
“Where did this man get all this?” say those knew him. “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?”
The “brothers” here are just relatives — James, for instance, we know came from specific, different parents.
But it must have been difficult for Jesus to meet with such total rejection in his mission from those he knew best.
“He was amazed at their lack of faith,” says the Gospel. But he still delivered his message. And that turned out well in the end.
This is the trust we need to have. We may not have clarity about when and how the message of God will bear fruit, but we can trust that if we share it, it will.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in
residence at Benedictine College.