The expression that we find in the Gospel today is familiar to us: a prophet is not without honor except in his native place. For us, the figure of the prophet would raise a lot of images in our mind. Perhaps the most common would be that of an individual set apart from the rest, and whose path is not exempt from difficulty and the incomprehension of his fellows. This at least is what we see in the Bible. Marked by the vocation that they have received from God to proclaim His word, they are despised and bound to suffer incomprehension from their own people, primarily because of the message that they had to impart. The First Reading reveals to us a lot of things concerning the role of the prophet in Israel, and pretty much about Israel itself. In the first place, the prophet is not one who foretells what would happen in the future; he is not a seer, but rather someone who speaks in behalf of the Lord. He is one through whom the word of God arrives at the people of Israel. In the reading from the book of the prophet Ezequiel the Lord is speaking about the stubbornness and the hardness of heart of his people. The history of Israel—and that of the whole history of salvation—is a story, on one part, of Israel’s infidelities, and of God’s faithfulness on the other. Through his prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting covenant intended for all (cfr. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #64). He was preparing them for the fullness of time, wherein he would be among them. But for this to take place, Israel must prepare and be purified.
In the Responsorial Psalm we have repeated these words: our eyes are fixed on the Lord pleading for his mercy. The stubbornness and hardness of heart complained about by the Lord through his prophets impede man to see and recognize the Lord and his wonderful works in our lives. Whenever we tend to remain in our sins, we are blinded from the truth that God is with us; we willfully limit our horizons because of our selfishness and lack of trust in God’s mercy. When we are obstinate in doing that which offends God, we clip our wings, and so are unable to soar the heights for which the Lord has destined us. Man has been created to be free, and to soar freely. The problem nowadays is that we do the exact opposite, mistakenly believing that we are better off when we follow our own criteria. In refusing to live according to God’s law of love and its moral consequences in our daily lives, we go blind as the people who heard the preaching of the Lord in the synagogue, as we see in today’s Gospel.
A prophet is not without honor except in his native place. These words uttered by the Lord seem to encapsulate the scene in the Gospel this Sunday. Amazed at their lack of faith, the Lord wasn’t able to do much in his own native Nazareth. Why is this so? Because the townspeople were not able to recognize in Jesus of Nazareth the Lord of Israel himself, who has fulfilled—in the person of Jesus—the promises that he had made through the prophets. They saw Jesus as merely one of them, nothing more. The son of the carpenter, Mary’s son; the blood relative of many among them. What special sign could a carpenter do? What great teaching could one among us offer? The people were shortsighted in not being able to realize that in the person of Jesus Christ, the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak, the lame walk, the dead are brought back to life and the poor have the good news of salvation preached to them.
This spiritual myopia could affect us also. If we do not have faith, we will merely view Jesus as a mere historical figure, a miracle worker, a revolutionary, or even just a spiritual guide and companion. But these is not what we need if we would want to be saved from our own weaknesses and sins. We need life, and life in abundance. Only God can give this to us. Once again the question made by Jesus to his disciples is directed to us: Who do you say that I am? (Matt 16:15). It is only through eyes of faith that we are able to see, in the sacred humanity of Christ, the face of the God who saves. A personal faith in the Son of God is important, one that is born out of the faith of the Church, shared and vivified by the Holy Spirit. A revolutionary does not have the power to change our hearts and sustain with his grace; a miracle worker cannot give us eternal life, and a mere historical figure does not have much to do with our daily life. Seen through the eyes of faith, Jesus is not any of these, rather, he is the Son of the living God, who has the words of eternal life (cfr. Jn 6:68), who has come so that we may have life, and be able to live it abundantly (cfr. Jn 10:10).
As such, a living and active faith in the Son of God is not merely the invitation to view him as such, but it also opens the door to his saving power in our lives. In the Second Reading, taken from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians, the Lord says, “my grace is enough for you, for power is made perfect in weakness”. Faith opens the door so that the grace of the Lord may enter into our lives, healing what is diseased, cleaning what is impure, straightening that which is crooked, filling us with light and the very life of God. As such, to use the words of Pope Benedict XVI, in the same way that he who believes is never alone, the person who believes and places himself entirely in God's hands, is never without strength. May our living faith in Jesus the Son of God and Redeemer of man give us the strength to pattern our lives after his, and so contribute, according to our own little way, to the building up of a society that is more humane and just, a world where the goodness and love of God finds its home. AMEN.
FIRST READING: Ez. 2:2-5
SECOND READING: 2 Cor. 12: 7-10
GOSPEL: Mk. 6: 1-6