5 July 2009. 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ezekiel 2, 2-5; Psalm 123; 2 Cor 12, 7-10; Mark 6, 1-6
Have you ever returned a different person to your birthplace? When we come home, we bring with us a wide array of experiences and encounters that changes us. We are not like the teenager we used to be, but someone with a different perspective and an accumulated knowledge. Usually, a tension happens in homecomings. Our folks treat us and expect us to be the same as before. However, they are also eager to see what happened to us from the time we left. When we show them we’ve changed, they usually react because they need to adjust to us. On the other hand, when we manifest the same behavior, they say that the years of separation did not bring about anything significant.
Psychological studies have it that our behavior adapts to different groups. If we are with our families, our gait remains the same. However, if we are reunited with our high school friends, we behave as if 25 years made no impact.
But in the Gospel today, Jesus flies out of this mold: when He returns to Nazareth, He shows what became of Him. He speaks, preaches and heals like a pro. His wisdom is exceptional. His deeds were mighty! It is therefore mystifying to His own people to see Him different from the Nazarene boy He used to be. “Is He not the carpenter, the son of Mary, the relative of this and that?” And because of this familiarity, they did not believe.
The same with our parents and relatives who could not take a “lecture” or an “opinion” from the boy or the girl who used to play at their backyards. The people of Nazareth cannot take the different Jesus in His early thirties who went to visit them, “Who is this to give us a lecture, whose relatives we know?” So Jesus said, "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house." Thus, whether an advice and new systems are more effective, efficient and updated, prejudice will hinder one’s kin from listening. Jesus is rejected in His very own town.
The same way with the people in the first reading. The Israelites reject Yahweh, and so they are exiled to Babylon. But Yahweh sends the prophet Ezekiel to the people who have given up hope of the Lord’s guidance. The prophet is commissioned to those who thought that God has abandoned them because they are in a foreign land. He is to remind them that wherever they are, whether they have rejected God, the Lord will still be with them. To me, this is the point of the readings today.
A final word. St. Paul in the second reading tells us that we can manifest God’s presence in our lives through our weaknesses, limitations, hardships and the insults we bear. When we are devoid of human greatness, we are able to point at the very source of our strengths.
Case in point. My hometown is always devastated by calamities. The Philippines is visited by an average of 20 typhoons per year. Albay, my home province in the Bicol Region is prone to storms, volcanic eruptions and mudflows. Every time we are hit by a natural calamity, we try to recover. That means, to weather the storms 20 times per year. When asked where this resilience comes from, my people would only answer one thing: our faith. God’s presence in our lives is manifested by our lack.