YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: VOCATION OF PROPHETS
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
A priest congratulated an altar server and said to him, ‘it is possible that the Lord is calling you to be a priest? Go and think and pray about it.’ The boy answered, ‘My mum had already told me I would likely be a priest because I pray a lot and always ask for money.’ The mum of the altar server really has a good sense of humour and in her brief words to her son, she summarised what she thinks are the twin roles of a priest – to pray and to ask for money. Just like this humorous mum, I also used to think of a prophet as a dead serious guy whose only role is to predict the future. Over time, I have come to realise that the role of a prophet is not limited to foretelling the future, but of directing the people on the path of truth and reminding them about the need to love, obey and trust God. In short, a prophet is a moral compass of the society in which he belongs.
Ezekiel was one of the prophets whose story is found in the Old Testament of the Bible. God gave the prophet Ezekiel an onerous task of speaking to the rebellious people of Israel. He was to warn the people to change their behaviours or else God’s wrath would visit them. The Lord had told Ezekiel to speak to them whether they listen to him or not. The people refused to heed to the words of the prophets until their evil behaviours led to their captivity.
The king Nebuchadnezzar defeated them in 570/1 BC and led them to captivity in the land of Babylon and they experienced cruelty in the hands of the Babylonians. It was during this captivity that they sang the emotion-laden and nostalgic song: By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1)
Just like the prophet Ezekiel had a hard time in getting his people to listen to his prophetic message, Jesus also experienced the pain of rejection by his own people. His people rejected him because he was an ordinary person, the son of a carpenter who spoke truth to them. The people were blind to the extraordinary presence of God in the ordinary appearance of Jesus. The people who listened to Jesus appear to be like the proverbial grandson who failed to see the beautiful sun to which his grandfather pointed, because he concentrated on the wrinkled finger of the elderly man.
Prophecy is not a mission limited to ancient people, but all messengers of truth and love are also prophets. By our baptism we are called to be prophets and we are called to be truthful and help others see the truth. Prophecy does not necessarily mean going around and accusing every person of being wrong, but a constructive or creative criticism that seeks to set those we care for on the right path. In fact, to be a prophet is a hard labour of love.
Just as Ezekiel and Jesus faced external obstacles (people’s rejection) during the discharge of their prophetic duties, the Apostle Paul recounts his own internal obstacle (inner struggle), which was ‘a thorn in the flesh’ (2 Corinthians 12:7). We can learn from the experiences of prophet Ezekiel, Jesus and the Apostle Paul. They relied not on their power but on the power of the God who has sent them on prophetic mission. Likewise, we should not be discouraged when we are misunderstood for any good works that we do with a pure heart. Even when our good intentions are twisted out of context or misunderstood by family members, friends and colleagues at work. Like Ezekiel, Paul and Jesus, you are also called to be a prophet and do not hesitate to embrace your prophetic calling.
14th Sunday in ordinary time/Year B/ Ezekiel 2:2-5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Mark 6:1-6