Life & Soul

Word this week

Detail from Jesus in the Synagogue, by James Tissot

The 14th Sunday of the Year
Ez 2:2-5; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6 (Year B)

“Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to the rebels who have turned against me. Till now they have been in revolt against me.” The prophet Ezekiel was called to preach an unwelcome message to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Theirs was a familiar story, repeated many times over the course of Israel’s history.

While the Israelites claimed to be God’s chosen people and jealously guarded the Jerusalem Temple as God’s chosen dwelling place, their lives no longer reflected the integrity and holiness to which they had been called. They had become a nation among nations, swayed by the ambition and compromise that governed those nations. Ezekiel challenged this infidelity so as to lead a sinful people to a renewed holiness.

We live in very different times, but, as Pope Francis has recently reminded us, the call to holiness remains unchanged. The everyday holiness of ordinary people is indeed the most attractive face of the Church. More than this, it contradicts the selfish indifference that distorts the holiness to which all are called.
The Gospel illustrates the challenges that we must embrace if, as true disciples, we long to grow in the holiness of Christ himself.

A recurrent theme of the Gospel is the hostility that Jesus encountered, frequently from those best placed to receive his Gospel. When Jesus began to preach in the familiar setting of the synagogue, he was initially received with astonishment. Frequently this became something else. “Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the Son of Mary … and they would not accept him.” Persistent pride inevitably distrusts and rejects any light that shines brighter than itself.

Jesus remarked that a prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

If we are to grow in holiness we must allow ourselves to be challenged, both by the Lord himself and the humble sanctity of those we meet in life. Long ago the prophet Ezekiel had become that uncomfortable challenge for God’s people. True holiness is rooted in the prayer that allows itself to be challenged so as to grow into the holiness of God himself.