08Jul 08 July. 14th Sunday

1st Reading: Ezekiel (2:2-5)

God sends Ezekiel to tell people of their sins and call them to repentance

When he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, “Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. Their descendants are impudent and stubborn.

I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.”

Resp. Psalm (Ps 123)

R./: Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy

To you I lift up my eyes
who are enthroned in heaven—
as the eyes of servants
are on the hands of their masters. (R./)

As the eyes of a maid
are on the hands of her mistress,
so are our eyes on the Lord, our God,
till he have pity on us. (R./)

Have pity on us, O Lord, have pity on us,
for we are more than sated with contempt;
our souls are more than sated
with the mockery of the arrogant,
with the contempt of the proud. (R./)

2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians (12:7-10)

Paul copes with his “thorn in the flesh” because power is made perfect in weakness

In order to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Gospel: Mark (6:1-6)

Jesus is rejected by his neighbours in Nazareth. No prophet is honoured among his own people

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.


Today’s readings

The readings take us in two different directions this Sunday. We can reflect on the (non) reception of Jesus as a prophet in his hometown — which could take us to ask who are the prophets for today and are we able to hear them? Prophetic figures are usually awkward customers and, as in the past, it is easy enough to find excuses to ignore them…and yet “such are the ones who seek the face of the Lord”!

Alternatively, we can follow up on St Paul — surely one of the most marvellous and mysterious passages from his pen. Paul was very properly reluctant to discuss his spiritual experiences. Nevertheless, in this passage, we learn something of how he managed with all the obstacles he faced. No one really knows what the thorn in the flesh might have been. Perhaps it was his own incapacity to speak well in public — a consoling thought — which he himself frankly admits: Some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but his physical presence is weak and his speech is of no account.” (2 Cor 10:10)
(Kieran O’Mahony)

What’s important to us?

Jesus was amazed at the unbelief of his Nazareth neighbours. Many would suggest that if Jesus was to come among us again he would be amazed at how Ireland has changed. Casual violence, robbery and suicide are on the increase. During his Irish visit some years back, then-president Bill Clinton reminded us of our need to return to core values alongside the journey to economic recovery. A country’s economic difficulties are not the end of the world but the beginning of another chapter in our history. ‘We need to help our friends not just to recover but to keep their heads on straight while recovering.’

If just before dying every person had thirty lucid minutes I doubt that many would spend them thinking how great it was to be rich or celebrated in this life. They would rather think about people they had loved, and how the flowers smelled and rivers sparkled in the summer. Parents would remember their joy when their children were born or when they were united to a life-partner at the altar of matrimony. Times change but values and personal relationships last. What part would our faith play in those final, lucid moments? Hopefully,  we  will hand ourselves over peacefully into the arms of God. But if this kind of faith is to be handed on to the next generation, we Catholics will have to stand up and be counted. We need to talk about the values and principles we hold dear. Prophets who speak up may not always be accepted among their own people but silence is not enough nowadays. We need to speak the truth we believe in, and keep the faith.

Making change possible

Today’s Scriptures raise serious issues for anyone who wishes to follow Jesus along the way. Ezekiel says that the Spirit of God “set him on his feet.” Without the Holy Spirit, without grace, without the energy that is God’s gracious gift, we cannot live the life of faith, and true inner change is not possible. It is easier to do nothing than to get actively involved, to be negative than positive,  to be cynical rather than creative … and we humans are an amalgam of these contradictory tendencies. So often we are stiff-necked, stubborn and even cynical, because shirking responsibility takes little effort and less understanding. But to live the covenant God offers us calls for an awareness of grace and that grace must find expression in real, forgiving, growth oriented patterns of life and relationship.

If we take today’s gospel to heart, we will examine our tendency to judge others, to take hurt and offence from them, reject them, and make them scapegoats of our own  aversions and resentments. If we become aware of how we spread negativity at home, at work or wherever, we must try to act on that awareness. How easy it is to confuse reality with our own ingrained prejudices and preferred viewpoints. We need to see that every story has another side, every person has his or her own reasons for doing what they do.

Like St Paul we need to acknowledge our own “thorn-in-the-flesh,” our shadow-side, our potential for irrational or neurotic behaviour. If I really want to be a disciple I must learn to  centre my existence on God’s terms lest I scatter  and lose myself, with no coherent meaning in my life. This is spirituality, a basic dimension that psychology discovers we need. May we remember God’s grace, and that it precedes us along the way, and allow it to set us on our feet and make us courageous. It can energise us for our next few steps on the perilous, challenging journey to abundant life.

Leaving home

When young adults leave home for the first time to make their way in life, it can impact on all the family. The one leaving will often have mixed feelings, wanting to strike out and be independent and yet feeling the pain of leaving loved ones. Parents will  have the same mixed feelings, on one side glad that their son or daughter is ready to move on and yet knowing that they will miss them very much. In contrast to partings, homecomings are usually happy experiences for all involved. Yet, homecomings can be complicated too. The one returning for a visit may have changed significantly since going away, and those at home may have changed too. There can be mistaken expectations based on how things were in the past rather than on how things have changed in the meantime. Adjusting to what have taken place while the family member was away can be a challenge for everyone.

Jesus returns to his home town of Nazareth, having left there some time previously. He had spent the best part of thirty years in Nazareth. During that time he was known by all as the carpenter, the son of Mary. However, since leaving Nazareth, Jesus’ life had taken a new direction. He had thrown himself into the work that God had given him to do. He had left Nazareth as a carpenter; he returned as a teacher and a healer. There was in fact much more to Jesus that his own townspeople had ever suspected while he was living among them. The gospel suggests that they could not accept this ‘more’; they rejected him. They wanted him to be the person they had always known; they would not allow him to move on from that. Jesus’ homecoming turned out to be more painful than his leaving home. God’s unique Son who proclaimed the presence of God’s kingdom was experienced by the people of Nazareth as a thorn in the flesh, to use an image from today’s 2nd Reading.

The people of Nazareth thought they knew him well. The image they had of Jesus, which they held on to with great tenacity, became a block to their learning more about him. Too easily we assume that we know someone, when, in reality, we only know one side to them. We can form strong opinions on the basis of past experiences. We can become so attached to these opinions that even when the evidence is there to challenge them, we are completely unmoved. There was more to Jesus than the people of Nazareth could know. Indeed there is always more to every human being than we are aware of. That is true even of those we would claim to know well, such as family members and good friends. We are each made in God’s image. There is a profound mystery to each one of us. We can never fully probe the mystery of another person’s life. We each need to approach everyone with the awareness that there is more here than I can see. It was Jesus’ very ordinariness that made it difficult for the people of Nazareth to see him as he really was, in all his mystery. God was powerfully present to them in and through someone who was as ordinary, in many respects, as they themselves. God continues to come to us today in and through the ordinary, in and through those who are most familiar to us. In the religious sphere there can be a certain fascination with the extraordinary and the unusual. The gospels suggest that the primary way the Lord comes to us is in and through the everyday. This is what we mean by the incarnation. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The ordinary is shot through with God’s presence.

The Lord can reach us even through an experience that initially seems very negative. St Paul made this discovery for himself, according to his letter today. He struggled with what he called a thorn in the flesh. It is not easy to know what he means by this. Whatever it was, he wanted to be rid of it. He saw no good in it and he prayed earnestly to the Lord to take it from him, fully expecting that his prayer would be heard. Paul’s prayer was answered, but not in the way he expected. In prayer he came to realize that God was powerfully present in and through this thorn in the flesh. When we struggle with something inside ourselves or with something outside ourselves, some other person perhaps, we can be tempted to see the struggle as totally negative and just want to be rid of it. Like Paul, however, we can discover that this difficult experience is opening us up to God’s presence. The very thing we judge to be of little or no value can create a space for God to work powerfully in our lives. There is something of a paradox in what Paul hears the risen Lord say to him, ‘My power is at its best in weakness.’ It is often when we most feel life as a struggle that God can touch our lives most powerfully and creatively.

Na rudaí is tabhachtaí

Más rud é go ndeónaigh Dia ar gach duine díreach roimh bhás tríocha nóiméad de smaoineamh soiléar, ní cheapaim go gcaithfeadh siad an tréimhse deireannach ag machtnamh ar a gcuid saibhris, nó chóm tabhachtach abhí siad ar an saol sin. Bhéadh siad smaoineamh ar dhaoine a raibh grá acu dóibh, agus ar áilleacht na bláthanna agus ar solas agus scáth na haibhneacha i rith an tsamhraidh. Bhéadh tuismitheoirí ag cuimhneamh ar a n-áthas nuair a rugadh a gcuid leanaí nó nuair a bhí siad aontaithe le comhpháirtí saoil sa chleamhnas. Athraíonn amanna ach maireann luachanna agus caidrimh phearsanta. Cén chuid a bheadh ag ár gcreideamh in uair ár mbáis? Tá súil againn go dndeónfaimíd sinn féin go síochánta i lámha Dé. Ach má tá an cineál creideamh seo le tabhairt ar aghaidh don chéad ghlúin eile, ní mór dúinn cúntas a dhéanamh ar cad a chreidimíd I n’dáiríre. Ní mór dúinn labhairt faoi na luachanna agus na prionsabail atá le chroí againn. Is féidir nach nglacfar le fáidh i measc a gcuid daoine féin ach níl tost oiriúnach dúinn sa lá atá inniu ann. Ní mór dúinn an fhírinne a chreidimid a roinnt le daoine eile, agus an chreidimh a choinneáil.


(Saint Killian, missionary and martyr)

Kilian, (or Killian or Cillian, c. 640-686), from Mullagh, County Cavan, was an Irish missionary in Franconia (northern Bavaria), where he ministered around Würzburg and converted to Christianity Duke Gozbert and many others. When Kilian warned the Duke that he was in violation of sacred scripture by being married to his brother’s widow, Geilana, she was so angry that she sent soldiers to where Killian was preaching, and had him beheaded with his colleagues Colonan and Totnan.

2 Responses

  1. Brian Fahy

    I like Inspector Maigret very much. It began with the novels of Georges Simenon that I read as a youth. Then I saw the films made for television, including the most recent incarnations that have brought Rowan Atkinson to our screens in the title role. Atkinson, I feel, captures the warmth and humanity of Maigret very well, and I am happy to watch again and again the four feature films that he has made of these Parisian detective stories.

    There is a wonderful homeliness about seeing Maigret at home in his apartment with his wife, after his busy day trying to unravel the mysteries of the murder stories he faces. The search for truth and justice goes on and the inspector always looks to understand the ways of the human heart as he pursues the paths of discovery and the solving of the crime.

    Simenon, the author of these tales, always said that his purpose in life was, like his hero detective, to understand and not to judge. Where other detectives might simply follow clues and facts, Maigret meditates on our human nature and finds a pathway to resolution through thoughtful reflection and periods of silent recollection.

    There are depths to people that we do not know. True knowing is more than surface information. When Jesus comes to Nazareth, his fellow townspeople think they know him well. Such knowing draws lines around the objects of our knowledge and confines them within the parameters we have devised for them. Jesus is a carpenter. He cannot be a prophet.

    What is true of the people of Nazareth is true of you and me. The people we think we know have depths to them that we do not know at all. We do well to reverence one another as genuine mysteries, whom we may come to know more and more as time goes on. It is a sad truth that familiarity does breed contempt, and we are often guilty of boxing people into narrow spaces. It is our perception that is so often at fault. We are prejudiced people very often.

    The visit of Jesus to his hometown is an occasion for us now to re-examine our own attitudes to all the people in our lives. How small we make other people! How easily we dismiss them and dispossess them of the graces they truly have, simply because it suits us to do so.

    When Jesus preached to people he taught them how to be blessed. In the Beatitudes the word used is ‘makarios’. It means to make grow larger. When we bless others we cause their spirit to grow larger in happiness and in good esteem, and so grow larger in happiness ourselves. It is what we are called to do – to bless others in every way we can. It is a privilege at the end of Mass for a priest to raise his hand in blessing over the people. It is something we can all do every day.

    Inspector Maigret was not just a clever detective. He was a blessing in the lives of all those he met.

    Brian Fahy

  2. Brian Fahy

    Jesus went to his home town

    Every Thursday evening my father would sit in his armchair beside the fire and pick up the local weekly paper, The Journal, and spend a quiet hour reading it from cover to cover. All the local news was there, including court cases and who had died, and photos of weddings and the like. Then after an hour my father would put the paper down and utter the words, ‘Ah, there’s noting in that paper!’ ‘No,’ my mother would answer him, ‘and you’ve just spent a good hour reading it!’

    Local life and local news used to be very much part of life for most people in those days. We did not venture very far either for work or school or play, and the world was very much the place where we lived. What happened locally to people and groups in work and business and recreation was very much to be found on our doorstep, and that weekly dose of the local paper kept us in tune with the world round us.

    Life is different today. We get our news now from all kinds of instant gadgets, and the news items concern the whole wide world from Mayo to Manchuria, from Dublin to Djibouti and from Tyldesley to Taiwan. The daily news of the world is the mood music in which we live our daily lives, and the news is not so much something that we seek out, as my father did on those long ago Thursday evenings. No, the news seeks us out at every turn and the story that it tells is one of unadulterated misery. It is everything that is wrong with the world and all the bad news that constantly pounds about our ears.

    For our part we are often the mute and miserable victims of this constant flow of darkness. We are not expected to process this news, just simply absorb it. The serious question is – what is this experience doing to our heart and mind and soul? Depressing information simply causes people to become depressed. Life is sad and then we die.

    When Jesus returned to his home town of Nazareth, he sat among his neighbours and townsfolk, and when invited, got up to speak before them all. He lit up their lives and they were astonished at the gracious words that cam from his lips. He spoke words of inspiration and joyful hope. He quoted Isaiah and spoke of liberating captives and freeing prisoners from dark dungeons. It was tremendous stuff.

    But after this initial brightness the locals reverted to the tried and trusted ways of cynicism. Who is this guy! Where did he get all this guff! We know where he lives. You can’t fool us. The world and its bad news took over once again and claimed its place as the true interpreter of this world’s story.

    This cynical and negative attitude put a stop to Jesus and his grace. You cannot transform people when they refuse to believe that transformation is possible. Belief in goodness and in its ultimate power to save us and to triumph over evil is the ground and the basis on which life can thrive. If this world’s weariness is allowed to proceed and to dictate what our life shall be, then we will end up despising goodness when we meet it.

    That was the tragedy at Nazareth that day. The locals despised anyone who dared to offer more than fitful life. They knew what life was. You could wrap it up in a newspaper and read it in an hour. Our modern world and its communications is doing the very same thing to us and would cause to lose faith in goodness and to despise those who preach it.

    But Jesus stands before us, a true local man living local life where all life is to be lived. He offers us words of life every day. Listen to them. Let them inspire you each day. There might not be very much in the paper. There might be too much on the telly, but the real good news is called Gospel.

    Jesus came to his home town. He comes to you and me every day. Let that voice speak to you.

    Brian Fahy

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