Vacations, Miffed Prophets and Christ
User's Guide to Sunday: Reflections on forthcoming Mass readings by Tom and April Hoopes.
July 5 and July 12 are the 14th and 15th Sundays in Ordinary Time (Year B, Cycle 1).
Pope Benedict will spend two weeks in July vacationing in the Italian Alps at Les Combes, in the same cabin that he used for vacations in 2005 and 2006.
We’ll be celebrating these two Sundays on the road in a mega vacation that will bring us to Minnesota and the home of Tim Drake, as well as to Mount Rushmore and beyond.
We will try to remember Benedict’s vacation advice from a recent general audience: “We must set aside time in life for God, to open our life to God with a thought, a meditation, a small prayer and not to forget Sunday is the day of the Lord.”
July 5 Readings
Ezekiel 2:2-5; Psalm 123:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6
In today’s Gospel, Jesus has a tough time preaching in his home town of Nazareth. After all, his audience knows his parents, his cousins (cousins are called “brothers and sisters” here and a few other places in the Bible) and saw him grow up and learn a trade.
“A prophet is not without honor,” says Jesus, “except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”
On the one hand, those words can be a comfort to us. If we’ve found a positive religious path in life, our family might know us too well and not buy it. We can rest easy knowing the same was true for Christ.
On the other hand, these words can be used as a bad excuse for complacent, self-righteous self-pity. We can decide that they exempt us from having to reach out to our family. We can fancy ourselves persecuted prophets.
We humbly submit a third way to understand his words: They aren’t about how to feel about yourself, but how to feel about your family. One’s family provides a special obstacle to evangelization. One should find a way to evangelize them anyway.
After all, look at the first reading. In it, Ezekiel is sent explicitly to reach out to a “rebellious house.” And in the Gospel, Christ didn’t neglect giving evangelization at home a try. The Gospel even shows what approach he took with those at home: He cured a few people who were sick and was willing to speak about spiritual things.
We can do the same: Do good things at home, and speak naturally about your faith, when it comes up. It won’t be easy. But you also don’t get a pass just because it’s tough.
July 12 Readings
Amos 7:12-15; Psalm 85: 9-14; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13
Today’s second reading describes God’s unique relationship with us.
1. In Christ we have “every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” That’s a lot of blessing. It is, in fact, limitless blessing, limited only by our willingness to receive it.
2. We aren’t an afterthought.
God “chose us,” says Paul, “before the foundation of the world.” God didn’t carefully create the world, set it in motion, then discover later that it would produce us. He created the world with us in mind. The things we encounter aren’t random hazards — they are planned helps for us, if we use them properly.
3. God wants to adopt us.
God destined us, it says, for “adoption to himself through Jesus Christ.” Adam and Eve fell for Satan’s temptation to “be like God.” If only they had known that God wanted that, too, and had a better way than Satan’s. We play out the same drama with every temptation, which offers us a cheap, counterfeit grace in place of what God wants — to make us his children.
3. God “sums up all things in Christ.”
Pope Benedict XVI’s inauguration homily explains: “If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation.”