Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
A prophet's job is to open people's eyes to the reality of their situation ‑ pointing out to them the things they would rather forget or ignore. A prophet is a sort of “national conscience”, always awake to situations of injustice and always speaking out about them. A prophet is commissioned to do this by God, who sends the prophet on his mission Jesus is just such a prophet ‑ teaching and preaching about the Kingdom of God and the best way to live. Despite the welcome his message has received elsewhere, when he comes to his hometown he is faced with rejection ‑such that “he was amazed at their lack of faith.” It is curious is that they seem to accept his wisdom, and his miracles, but because he grew up among them they cannot accept him as a teacher from God. We should remember that it is often hardest to stand up for the truth among those who know us well.
Notes for Readers
First Reading: Ezekiel 2:2-5
This is a prophet's own account of his commissioning and send out by God. This short reading has a remarkable honesty – the mission is not going to be easy. Those forbidding words, “whether they listen or not...” give us insights into the task the prophet faces. This is a fairly simple reading: be careful to understand the way in which God presents the mission ‑ in a very negative way. God doesn't understate the difficulty of the job ahead ‑ using dramatic words like “revolt”, “defiant and obstinate”. When we eventually get to the message that Ezekiel is to take with him, it might seem a little bit of an anticlimax: “The Lord says this.” This was the formula of Divine prophecy ‑ a sign that the words, whatever they were, came from God. Interestingly, it is the same phrase that you, the reader, will say at the end of your reading: “This is the Word of the Lord.” As a reader of God's word, you certainly share some of the roles of a prophet. Bear this in mind as you read!
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Paul gives us a strangely intimate insight into his ministry, in talking about his “thorn in the flesh”. There has been a lot of debate as to what this could be: some think it could be a serious, possibly disfiguring disease; others that he refers to the failure of his brothers and sisters in Judaism to accept his message; some have even suggested that it could refer to his baldness, his short stature or a speech impediment. Whatever the details, here Paul is giving us a deeply personal testimony to his faith and his mission ‑ whatever the burden, he is quite happy to carry on. Read in a tone that is friendly and almost casual (without losing any clarity). Announce the idea clearly ‑ be careful with the words “thorn in the flesh”; in the second half of the reading, allow Paul's contentment to come through. Stress “weaknesses” in contrast with strength (which is what the world would boast about), especially in the last line. Spend some time with this reading before you proclaim it, and come to know the person of Paul, whose words you often read, a little better through this revelation.