- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

Homily for July 4, 2021 – The 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO

The 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ezekiel 2: 2-5, 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10, Mark 6: 1-6

“As the Lord spoke to me the spirit entered into me and set me on my feet” (Ez. 2:2). Ezekiel was not a stranger to the people to whom he was sent. This made his mission even more daunting. To strengthen him for his prophetic mission, the Spirit of the Lord raised him up. Like Ezekiel, we are called to proclaim the Word of the Lord in midst of people we know and live with. We find traces of the experience of Ezekiel in the life of Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). God will speak a word to us when we are willing to let him set us on our feet. The Spirit of life and grace enters into us along with God’s call. We have only to allow the Lord to put us back on our feet and then open our ears to hear what the Lord is saying to us. We have to put our confidence in the Lord knowing that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. We need to be confident that God accomplishes his work with broken reeds. Our weakness is used by Christ’s grace and loving-kindness to manifest God’s strength.

The Psalmist took up the theme of focused attention. “As servants keep their eyes on their master, and as a maidservant watches her mistress for the slightest signal, so we keep our eyes on the Lord our God until He shows us His mercy” (Ps. 123:2). In prayer, the individual lifts up his soul to the Lord. He cries out for mercy from God. His trust is in the Lord, and he waits for the Lord to show him mercy. Like a faithful servant, the just man keeps his eyes fixed on his master, waiting for him to provide for his needs. We look to our loving Father waiting for him to provide our daily bread, and grace sufficient to carry out our assigned tasks. Our faith tells us that we can confidently call upon the Lord. If like Ezekiel, we find ourselves flat on our face, we have the assurance that the Lord of mercy will pick us up and accompany us on our way. We learn through our life experiences that strength is something we gain through accepting our human weakness. God does not free his prophets from the fragilities related to the human condition, diseases, fatigue, defects. Rather, He uses the weakness of his chosen instruments to manifest his power.

Times of crisis are, perhaps, the most important times for us to turn our gaze to God. The weakness of God is stronger than the strength of men. The apostle to the gentiles gloried in how God used that “thorn in the flesh” to keep him humble and help him avoid being elated on account of his spiritual blessings. Because God loves us, he will keep us from being puffed up with pride and bring us to our knees. Prayer becomes the salve for every sore, a remedy for every malady. When we reach out our hands towards him, the Lord will stretch out his hand to us. God wants us to turn to him and seek his intimacy, comfort, and help. In our times of distress, he will hold us close to his heart. When we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of Christ, who became poor to make us rich and to teach us the way of salvation.

God has only one desire: He wants to console us when we need assurance and to challenge us when we are tempted to run away. The message of the Scriptures demands that we lay down our concerns and focus our attention on God and God’s will for us. When we believe in God’s mercy and trust that we were created for eternal life in God, we are liberated from a fear of sin and death which can paralyze us. All strength for holy living and all passion for self-sacrificing love is born in the heart that has been stripped, loved, and freed. God invites us to listen to the prophets! Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ became one with us, not to be like us, but for us to be like him. In response to his transforming grace, we must make Christ’s eyes our eyes, his heart our heart, his way our way. We are called to be prophets, to bear witness to Christ and his infinite mercy in every aspect of our lives.

As we celebrate our nation’s Day of Independence, let us pray that God will not give up on us as a nation. Even though, like the people of Ezekiel and Jesus’ times, we have a history of stiff-necked obstinacy. Even though, like them, we have not always paid attention to the prophets in our midst. Even though we have failed to get out of our comfort zones to respond to global injustice, the cry of the poor, and the precarious health of our common mother. Even though, like the people of Nazareth, we turn a deaf ear to the unwelcomed prophetic words that have been spoken to us. God continues to speak to our hearts. Today, in light of the continued challenges of COVID, racial and cultural prejudices, and the effects of climate change we find ourselves at a crossroads. “We can withdraw into ourselves, seeking our security and expediency, or we can be open to others, which entails risks but also God’s promised fruits of grace” (Pope Francis). We are being called to promote a more universal fraternity and to work for means of reconciliation that are capable of healing past injustices whereby we will experience the dawn of everlasting peace. May God bless us and help us make these words taken from the Declaration of Independence a reality in our land, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” God bless America.