Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Of all that covid has taken from us, one event comes to the forefront for me is the celebration of baptism. I was reminded of it last Saturday at 2 pm. Because of protocol and the timely manner that we need to clean the church, all baptisms are done privately. Last weekend, I baptized Ethan Ross Cormier… one of the many born during the pandemic. Although it was a nice celebration, I missed taking the baby around the church after the baptism, the excitement of the community, the music, and so on.
After Ethan was baptized, I anointed him, with Sacred Chrism and prayed these words on behalf of the community, represented by his family: “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.” For most of us, we can identify with “priestly” functions, or “King” type leadership but what about a “prophet?” What comes to mind when we hear that title? It is something that every baptized person is responsible for, “may you live always as a member of his body sharing everlasting life.”
The Old Testament is filled with many prophets. Both women and men approached by God at different times throughout history. They’re not fortune tellers, or magicians and many of them were failures (meaning that they were not taken seriously). In its simplest meaning; a prophet is one one who is chosen by God to go and point God out to others. It is a daunting task that takes so much energy, conviction, and faith.
In the Gospel for today, we hear about another prophet… the ultimate prophet: Jesus. He is returning to his hometown and no doubt is excited to see his other family and friends, those whom he grew up with, worked with, laughed with and shared many experiences. And yet, as he talks about God in the synagogue, something happens. The same people who were happy to see him begin to change their attitude towards him. We are told that “they took offense at him…” They don’t even refer to him by his name. Jesus… they call him “the carpenter, the son of Mary…”
But what was it that he said that turned them against him? Was it the nuance of his particular teaching: to love neighbour and God as you love yourself?” “Always forgive one another?” “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, offer them the left as well?” “Those who believe in me believes in the one who sent me… God?” Or perhaps it was the way he looked at them, with love and compassion, knowing their stories, their successes and their failures, their goodness and their sin? Was it because the truth was too much for them? Or perhaps his way of preaching the Word, bringing it so close to home that they couldn’t take it? Or maybe this was for the benefit for the followers of Jesus? Jesus knew that there would be another time when a group of people would welcome him with palm branches and within hours, he would be dead.
And yet, it is Jesus who reminds them, “A prophet is not without honour except in their hometown and among their own kin and in their own house.” Jesus, like Ezekiel in the First Reading, and Paul in the Second Reading knew the difficulties of being a prophet… chosen by God to minister to those in need.
Ezekiel was told by God that his work of prophecy for Israel would be rejected and yet he persevered. He did not give up. As well, Paul in the 2nd Reading speaks of a “thorn in his flesh” that keeps him humble. we’re not told what this is but Paul too trusted God and continued to be his prophet until his death.
This is the year of another prophet… St. Joseph. In the corner of our church you will see a statue of St. Joseph, which came from St. Brendan’s church sitting on red cloth (red representing the gifts of the Holy Spirit… one of them being courage). Although this man was not a great orator, powerful leader, or a feared military person, Joseph was a prophet. That statue of our prophet is chipped and cracked in different places, the paint flaking off… in many ways, we’re like that…life is hard and difficult… we, too, have our own scrapes cracks and chips and like Joseph we are called to listened to God, trust and to love.
Who are other prophets that we listen to in our current time? Do we listen to our elderly and the valid stories that they share with us… do we find value in them? What about Francis, our pope, trying to lead us in a more inclusive, loving direction, recognizing the sacred within all people? How at Easter, he invited Transgender people without medicare to come to Vatican and receive covid shots! Or the people on the front lines of covid 19… do we take seriously what they are saying and doing so that we can protect ourselves? We are all ‘prophets’ and are called to model our lives on Jesus. We know the message that Jesus proclaimed and it has not changed… it’s LOVE. Are we willing to have the courage to listen to God who givens us this message of love to embrace and to share with one another no matter what the challenges may be… to be that prophet for one another ? Amen.