14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

5th July 2015

The first reading is from chapter 2 of Ezekiel (2:2-5). Chapter 1 describes in an excessively elaborated way a vision of God speaking to the man as he reached the age (of 30 years) for practising as a priest, and initiating him as a prophet among the exiles by the rivers of Babylon. Our reading tells of God calling Ezekiel to be the mouthpiece of God (that’s what being a prophet meant). It seems to be a harsh message that God wants delivered to what He calls a rebellious people, though we notice that God does not tell him specifically what to say. However we know that it is going to be a telling-off for neglecting their religion. Prophets generally interpreted any misfortune or disaster that befell the chosen people as a punishment from God; the foreign conquest of the chosen people is not what is to be condemned, but the people’s rebellion against God. We notice that even in this 6th century BC the Old Testament will use the terms spirit of God and word of God which later will be seen a reflecting the novel Christian doctrine of the Trinity; and at the time of Christ the phrase ‘son of man’ had in addition to just meaning ‘a human,’ or the more specific reference to some heavenly being who would come at the end of time to bring liberation to the people of God – with the definite article it is used by Jesus of Himself (the Son of man).

The Second reading is from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians (chapter 12, verses 7 to 10). It is an extract from a letter to a particular group or situation in the church at Corinth. It seems he may have been accused by them of being too gentle or hesitant in his preaching, or perhaps of having his own ideas rather than Christ’s. He seems to have been compared unfavourably with some charismatic preachers who even charged for preaching or with others who are trained public speakers. Paul is led to boast; like any of them, he is a Jew and a servant of Christ, indeed he has suffered many beatings and imprisonments for his work, many mishaps and catastrophes. He also boasts, just before the passage we have, that he has had visions, revelations and even mystical experiences. But we read that he has some ‘thorn in the flesh’ – and no one knows what that could have been. But he knows he shouldn’t boast except of his weaknesses given to him by Christ.

The gospel is from the first 6 verses of Mark chapter 6 (see here). At the time Mark is writing, the number of Christians was increasing, but mostly not from those who were Jews, but from Gentiles. This seemed strange because it was the Jews that God had prepared and who were expecting the Messiah and it was among them that he worked and taught and he himself was a Jew. The gospel reading today is yet another attempt to make some sense of this. Jesus comes to his home town where he is known as just an ordinary person, even the son of Joseph a local carpenter; it is difficult for those who knew him this way to think of him as the Messiah, even though he seemed to have wisdom and miraculous powers. The proverb about the prophet not being accepted by his own and being powerless to work miracles among them, is in other gospels, but Matthew (13:53-58) and Luke (4:14-30) soften Mark’s bland statement that he was powerless to work miracles among his own people – we see here an example perhaps of how gospel stories can be developed to suit different audiences and situations.

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