Sunday Scripture readings, July 8, 2018: On recognizing prophets
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Ez 2:2-5
2) 2 Cor 12:7-10
Gospel: Mk 6:1-6
In our first reading, God is sending a man named Ezekiel to prophesy. Knowing that many people will not be persuaded by Ezekiel's message, God assures him that ultimately they will recognize "that a prophet has been among them." Apparently a lot of people did reject Ezekiel's prophecies. But later Jewish tradition enshrined him as a major prophet and gave his words a prominent place in the Old Testament.
There is always an inclination to honor dead prophets while failing to welcome living ones. Jesus addressed this problem. To some religious leaders who refused to believe in him, he said, "You hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets' blood'" (Mt 23:29-30).
What made them hypocrites? They put on a show of piety by building memorials to past prophets yet were not really receptive to God's Word; otherwise, they wouldn't be closing their hearts to Jesus, God's perfect Word, right there in front of them.
We ourselves are not immune to this tendency.
I'm old enough to feel the temptation to get into fondly recalling old Father Albert, "who was such a wise and holy priest," while dismissing anything young Father Tyler might say. Just out of the seminary, what does he know?
It is easy to honor the courageous life and teaching of Pope John Paul II, now canonized, while ignoring Pope Francis' call to set our priorities on meeting the needs of refugees and immigrants, on dealing with growing economic inequalities and on caring for the earth itself.
If only God's Word would come to us in the forms of the past, perhaps we would have an easier time recognizing it. But God has a disturbing habit of sending his Word in new ways.
The people of Nazareth undoubtedly honored Ezekiel. They read his prophecies in the synagogue. But Jesus? He was hard for them to accept, as we see in today's Gospel. He was nothing like Ezekiel or the other prophets of yore.
Why, he was just the carpenter who used to live down the street for so many years. How could he be the One that God has sent into the world?
Through whom may God be trying to speak to me?
- - -
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the "Six Weeks With the Bible" series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.