July 5, 2015 — Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Everything did not go perfectly for Jesus in His ministry. Today’s Gospel from St. Mark relates how He was rejected in His own hometown. “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” There are probably times when we share in that kind of frustration. Nevertheless, if we look at today’s readings in their totality, we find the resolution to that kind of exasperation.
In our Second Reading from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, the Lord speaks to Paul. God says basically the same thing to Ezekiel in the First Reading. To the prophet Ezekiel who is being asked to communicate with the Israelites, God says, “Hard of face and obstinate of heart, are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: ‘Thus says the Lord God’.” Ezekiel is being commissioned to carry out a difficult task with the strength provided by God. Throughout Holy Scripture we get the same message — that if we put our trust in the Lord and if we allow Him to work through us, we can accomplish so much.
St. Paul expands upon this message of strength in his letter to the Corinthians. Paul recounts how he feels burdened and weak and turns to God, and God replies to him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” As indicated this is the same message which Ezekiel received, and it is worth reiterating that it is the same message each of us receives through the Word. In our reading of the Passion from Mark on Palm Sunday, we heard Jesus cry out in the garden, “Remove this cup from me.” Paul pleads in a similar way in this letter when he says, “I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me.”
God’s response is always that if we rely on Him, if we trust in Him, all things are possible. If we are burdened, there are two ways to address the burden: one is to remove the burden, but the other is to strengthen the back which is bearing it. If we turn to the Lord for strength, that will allow us to more easily bear the burdens, the weaknesses, of life. In that way, as Paul indicates, a weakness can actually become a strength.
Jesus faces a different kind of burden, a different kind of weakness in our Gospel reading from St. Mark. Jesus had left Nazareth as a carpenter and as a man alone. He came back as a gifted teacher with followers completely devoted to Him. It is no wonder that the people in His hometown asked the question, “What happened to Jesus?” They found it difficult to believe in Him. This was surely both frustrating and disappointing to the Lord. However, like Paul and Ezekiel in the earlier readings, Jesus makes this into a strength. Rather than bowing to the feeling that He could accomplish nothing, He moves on and becomes stronger in His ministry and His message.
How do we respond to failure? How do we react to seeming burdens? Do we admit defeat and abandon what seems to be a fruitless journey, or do we seek and find strength in the presence of God and literally turn what seems to be a weakness into a strength? The next verse in Mark (6:7) states, “And he made a circuit of the villages, teaching.” We need to counter life’s difficulties, problems which exist because of our own weakness in many cases, with the same kind of resolve. Knowing that God is with us and that the Lord gives us a vigor which we cannot have without Him, we need to move forward and continue and succeed.