I have to admit that I am not one for haggling or disputing a price or questioning whether I have the right change or not when I am in a shop. Part of this is not wanting to draw attention to myself, but mostly this is a fear of rejection. I mostly want to fit in, not stand out from the crowd; finding it much easier and simpler to blend in rather than be noticed. I am also very uncomfortable speaking in public, but as many of you know God has a sense of humour, he has different plans for me, he has called me to serve Him and you as a Deacon. One of my many fears while discerning the call to the Diaconate was “what would the other people, I know in the Church think?” Thoughts like ‘Who does he think he is?”
However, my experience has been the opposite, some may have those thoughts, but the people of the Parish have been extremely supportive, and I know I could not do what I do without their prayerful support and encouragement.
In today’s readings we hear about the importance of faith and in following the call. Ezekiel is told to go and proclaim God to the Israelites, and his mission is to make sure that; whether they listen or not; they know there is a prophet among them. Those defiant and obstinate people were sent a defiant and obstinate prophet who continued to preach to them despite rejection, he is basically told not to worry about the results, but to share God’s Word, leave the rest to God. Are we put off our call, our mission to spread the good news? Is it more important for us to ‘fit in’ with our peers? Or are we focused on the mission we alone have been given?
St Paul often documents the opposition and rejection he encounters and gives us encouragement that he also has to contend with his ‘inner demons’, struggles, which he has unsuccessfully asked the Lord to remove from him. Accepting of the Lord’s choice he learns to live with this ‘thorn in the flesh’, demonstrating complete obedience to God. Also recognising that God helps him to draw strength from his weaknesses. How happy are we to accept insults, hardships, and persecution? In today’s world, most of us live what could be called a cosy lifestyle. Our hardship may be deciding whether to go out for a meal now that the restaurants have reopened or whether to go abroad risking having to isolate on return or to holiday in the UK this year. Sadly, for others, these choices are alien to them. I am very blessed and have much to thank God for!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to his hometown and fills the locals with bewilderment; they struggle to understand how Jesus, who was one of them, can suddenly become a learned preacher. I would suggest that it is unlikely that Jesus would suddenly become so learned. Often when we see someone everyday we fail to notice changes in them, it is only when we have not seen them for some time we notice subtle things like weight gain or change of hair colour or whatever physical changes we choose to observe. Jesus would have been maturing into His ministry for several years in plain sight of these people. The extra-ordinary results of this ministry were the new developments, which had taken them by surprise. Their knowledge of Jesus as a boy and adolescent; something which we know very little of; blinded their eyes to who had been made flesh and dwelt among them.
Their lack of faith affected Jesus so much that he could work no miracles there. For me this shows that Jesus was not a performer; the miracles of Jesus are no illusion performed by a magician. For the miracles to work, the recipients had to have faith. Jesus told us this several times after a miracle had been worked. Go, your faith has saved you.
How does our faith in 2021 match up to the people in the Bible? Are we like Thomas, whose feast day is this weekend, needing to see something in the flesh to believe? Are we like Jairus from last week’s Gospel who believed that if Jesus could just touch his daughter that she would live? Do we believe that in our Mass; God using the hands of our priest; changes the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ?
Our call to follow God is simple, there is no promise of success, no indication that when we preach the Gospel by our actions that we will be welcome, there is no guarantee of protection from our own demons or insecurities. Our call is to be faithful, to trust in God and to know that defeat and weakness are signs, not of God’s abandonment, but for those with faith the opportunity to experience the presence of God’s power.1
Please keep in your prayers
- Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- Those preparing to return to Mass.
- Edward McNulty who was baptised this weekend and his parents and Godparents.
- Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Permanent Diaconate.
- The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
- Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.
1 Robert Draper, Breaking the Word Sundays- Pastoral Review Vol 17 Issue 3(The Tablet Publishing Company, Twickenham, 2021)77-8.