Reflection on the 14th Sunday in Ordinary time B

by Fr Ncamiso Vilakati

My grace is sufficient for you for power is made perfect in weakness” 2 Cor 12:9

On the 14th October this year, Pope Francis will canonise two holy men. Blessed Pope Paul VI as well as Blessed Oscar Romero an Archbishop of San Salvador in El Salvador from Latin America. The latter was a controversial Bishop who had to face adversaries from his own people, especially the government. As a believer he knew that through his baptism, God’s grace was and is sufficient in pastoral ministry. Its no wonder on the 14th August 1977 he is quoted as saying: “The prophet must be disturbing to society when society is not with God”. In some instances, found to be saying “Even when they call us mad, when they call us subversives and communists and all the epithets they put on us, we know we only preach the subversive witness of the Beatitudes, which have turned everything upside down”.

The readings this week encourage us not to despair from daily rebukes or rejections especially from our very own people. Jesus startled his familiar audience with a seeming rebuke that no prophet or servant of God can receive honour among his own people. The people of Nazareth took offence at Jesus and refused to listen to what he was saying simply because he was a mere workman, a carpenter and a layman who had no formal training. They despised him because of his undistinguished family background. Jesus could do no mighty works in their midst because they were close-minded and unbelieving. If people have come together to hate and to refuse to understand, then they will refuse to love and accept others. The Gospel (Mark 6:1-6) of this Sunday brings us to Jesus’ homeland where His words have no same salvific value as elsewhere (in other towns), because His people qualify him as a “the carpenter“. The idea of God is transcended to them and cannot enter into the rigidity human logic especially through a poor man simplified as carpenter. For the Jews at the it was easier to accept a God from afar, rather than the one within our proximity.

The prophet Ezekiel 2:2-5, tells us about his vocation within the exilic period of the people of Israel. Although he is the son of Buzzi, a priest by birth, God calls him “son of man”. It manifests that God is not into status , hence the omission of the name priest, but simply a man. Once again, the Lord reminds us that he chooses the humble as a sign of contradiction to those who are stubborn and hardened. His mission is not easy, but Ezekiel puts himself in an attitude of listening and is sent among those who are considered a “rebel generation” precisely because they no longer listen to the word of the Lord. Two invitations for us today: to be a sign of contradiction with our lives in the midst of so many stubborn and hardened hearts; listen to the Word that is given to us by God in every situation.

We should not be afraid for Paul says : “My grace is enough for you” 2 Corinthians 12:9. He teaches us that God loves us so much that he can never give us enough of His blessings. “I’ve had enough of this church” are some statements we hear from some of our brethren. My brother and sister rather than taking the disposition of an oppressed believer, just be assured that “God’s grace is sufficient for us”. Our eyes are to be fixed on Jesus as Lord in a spirit of humility, so we are open to his mercy and grace. When we take our focus off the Lord and turn elsewhere for satisfaction then God is not enough to satisfy us. The second reading exhorts us, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, where the apostle Paul not only shows all his weakness, but even boasts of it, just as he had already done when he had boasted of the cross of Christ (1 Cor 1: 17-31). St Paul is convinced that as the cross of the Lord creates scandal, so is his fragility, described with the image of the thorn in the flesh. He assures us that this fragility can be an instrument for the action of God and, at the same time, validate the authenticity of his mission. Only that he accepts his weakness can he recognise the work of God in him; otherwise those who believe they are powerful do not need God, who even can see them as a rival! Love is the power of God that makes us strong “in the weaknesses, in the outrages, in the difficulties, in the persecutions, in the anguishes suffered for Christ”.

Blessed Oscar Romero further says “A church that suffers no persecution but enjoys the privileges and support of the things of the earth – beware! It is not the true church of Jesus Christ. A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they are secured in their sinful state, betrays the gospel’s call.” Now, if we feel threatened by those who are more educated, or more privileged than us when we share the Good news, then that is tantamount to a betrayal to God. Most of the time our most severe critics are people very familiar to us, either a member of our family, a relative, or a neighbour or co-worker we rub shoulders with on a daily basis. Even our Lord Jesus as a person faced a severe testing when he returned to his home town, although he was no longer just a simple carpenter’s son but a Rabbi with disciples. His hometown folks listened with rapt attention because they had heard about the miracles he had performed in other towns. What sign would he do in his hometown? And in what way would they discredit him so that he would despair and forget that God’s grace is always sufficient for one. 

Jesus Christ came to set us free, not only the physical, mental and spiritual infirmities, but also from the worst affliction of all timidity to stand for the gospel truth. The tyranny of slavery to sin, Satan, and the fear of losing one’s life discourages us from standing amidst those who rank higher than us in society. Remember that God’s power alone can save us from hopelessness, dejection and emptiness of life. The Gospel of salvation is “good news” for everyone who will receive it. Everyone can be an instrument of God since he/she gives his/her Word to our fragile voices, although sometimes out of tune. Let us not allow prejudice to deprive us of the amazement of meeting the Lord in our lives, even if our own totally reject us. My Brothers and Sisters, we may look stupid, oppressed by circumstances but remember “His grace is sufficient for you”.