REFLECTION/HOMILY FOR THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR B

FINDING GRACE IN THE THORN OF OPPOSITION IN THE MINISTRY

First Reading: Ezekiel 2:2-5
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 122(123)
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Gospel Reading: Mark 6:1-6
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As Christians, whether serving in our local parish communities or embarking on missionary journeys in foreign lands, we often face significant hardships or thorny experiences. These can include rejection, opposition, and various challenges that make our mission seem daunting. These experiences are not new; they reflect the trials faced by the prophets of old, by Christ Himself, his disciples, St. Paul, and other Christians. These difficulties can test our resolve and faith, yet they also offer an opportunity to deepen our trust in God’s grace. This Sunday’s readings emphasize the theme of persevering through difficulties in God’s work and relying on His grace to sustain us. By reflecting on these readings, we see that enduring difficulties is part of our Christian journey. Thus, we are invited to trust in God’s promise that He will complete the good work He has begun in us.

In the First Reading (cf. Ezekiel 2:2-5), we see Ezekiel being called by God to prophesy to the Israelites, described as a rebellious and obstinate people. The Spirit of God (רוּחַ – ruach) empowers Ezekiel to stand and hear God’s commissioning words. The term רוּחַ (ruach), meaning breath or spirit, symbolizes God’s empowering presence. Despite the people’s stubbornness, Ezekiel is commanded to deliver God’s message to them. The phrase בְּנֵי מְרִי (b’nei meri), meaning “children of defiance,” captures the challenging audience Ezekiel is sent to, yet it is God’s strength that sustains him. This highlights that even when faced with rebellion and resistance, God’s grace empowers His servants to carry out their mission. This explains why today’s Psalm (Ps. 122[123]) teaches us to maintain a posture of humility and reliance on God, especially in times of distress, trusting in His merciful care. Here, the psalmist lifts his eyes to the Lord, seeking His mercy and grace. The Hebrew term עֵינֵינוּ (eineinu), meaning “our eyes,” signifies looking up to God with hope and trust. The plea for mercy (חָנֵּנוּ – channenu) reflects the psalmist’s recognition of their need for God’s compassionate intervention.

The rebellious opposition and difficulties faced by Ezekiel also reflects the oppositions and difficulties faced by Jesus in His home town, as shown in today’s Gospel Reading (cf. Mark 6:1-6). Here, Mark presents Jesus’ return to His hometown, where He faces rejection. Despite His wisdom and miraculous deeds, the people took offence at Him, questioning His authority because they knew His family. We were told that “they took offence,” at Jesus. The Greek term used here is “ἐσκανδαλίζοντο” (eskandalizonto), which comes from the root word σκανδαλίζω (skandalizo), which means “to cause to stumble” or “to offend.” This term is used in the New Testament to describe situations where individuals are led into sin, disbelief, or rejection due to a particular stumbling block or offence. It often carries the connotation of a strong emotional reaction, such as offence, indignation, or shock, that causes one to reject or turn away from something. So, in today’s gospel reading, the term ἐσκανδαλίζοντο is used to describe the reaction of Jesus’ hometown people, who, despite witnessing His wisdom and miracles, took offence at Him due to their familiarity with His background. They could not reconcile their knowledge of Jesus’ humble origins with His divine authority, leading them to reject Him. This scenario illustrates how overfamiliarity and preconceived notions can blind us to the divine truth and cause us to stumble in our faith. Their lack of faith (ἀπιστία – apistia) limits the manifestation of His power among them. Jesus’ response, “A prophet is not without honour except in his hometown,” reflects the paradox of divine revelation: those closest to it can sometimes be the most resistant. This passage calls us to examine our own openness to God’s work in our lives and challenges us to move beyond familiarity to genuine faith and trust in His power.

In a similar vein, Paul in the Second Reading (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10), shares his personal struggle or difficulty with a “thorn in the flesh.” The Greek word used here is σκόλοψ (skolops), which can be translated as “thorn” or “stake,” referring to a pointed piece of wood or a splinter, something sharp that causes pain or discomfort. In classical Greek literature, it was used to describe a literal thorn or splinter and could also metaphorically refer to something causing persistent trouble or annoyance. Paul’s reference to the σκόλοψ in today’s second reading is particularly significant. He describes it as “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me,” which was given to prevent him from becoming conceited due to the surpassing greatness of the revelations he received. The exact nature of this thorn is not specified, leading to various interpretations. Some scholars suggest it could be a physical ailment, a spiritual struggle, or opposition from others. In Paul’s context, the σκόλοψ represents an ongoing (persistent) struggle or affliction that he must endure. It serves a purpose in God’s plan by keeping Paul humble and reliant on God’s grace. This aligns with finding strength in weakness and trusting in God’s sufficiency. For Paul, the thorn in the flesh is a reminder that God’s power is made perfect in weakness, demonstrating the importance of dependence on divine grace rather than personal strength. Despite pleading with God for its removal, Paul is told, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s acceptance of his weakness reveals a deep truth: our limitations create space for God’s strength to manifest. The verb τελειοῦται (teleiouitai), meaning “is made perfect,” indicates a process of completion or fulfilment. In our weaknesses, God’s power reaches its full expression, demonstrating that His grace is sufficient to sustain us through any trial. Paul’s declaration, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (ὅταν ἀσθενῶ, τότε δυνατός εἰμι – hotan astheno, tote dynatos eimi), challenges us to view our vulnerabilities as opportunities for God’s strength to be revealed This demonstrates that the persistent afflictions we experience in our day-to-day spiritual lives and missionary endeavours may not be taken away from us but God’s grace remains sufficient for us to sail through, just as His grace assisted the other disciples, Ezekiel (in the First Reading) and other prophets amidst their difficulties.

In light of these readings, dear friends, we learn that the difficulties we face in doing God’s work are opportunities to experience the sufficiency of God’s grace. Like Ezekiel, we are called to rely on God’s Spirit to fulfil our mission, even when faced with opposition. The psalmist teaches us to seek God’s mercy and trust in His care. Paul’s experience reminds us that God’s grace is sufficient to sustain us in our weaknesses, and Jesus’ rejection in His hometown challenges us to deepen our faith and trust in Him. Practically, this means we should embrace our weaknesses and limitations, inviting God’s grace to work through them. We should cultivate a life of prayer, seeking God’s presence and guidance in all circumstances. In moments of rejection or hardship, we must remember that God’s grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. This perspective allows us to live with confidence and hope, trusting that God is at work in and through our lives, even when we face thorny challenges.

Shalom!
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Seminário Padre Pedro Magnone, São Paulo, Brazil
nozickcjoe@gmail.com / fadacjay@gmail.com

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Chinaka Justin Mbaeri

A staunch Roman Catholic and an Apologist of the Christian faith. More about him here.

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Emeka Odugu
Emeka Odugu
10 days ago

Beautiful homily Fr. It’s like you had a meeting with Bishop Godfrey Onah before hand.
May God’s grace sustain us while we live in confidence and hope in the face of thorny challenges.

Chinaka Justin Mbaeri
Chinaka Justin Mbaeri
4 days ago
Reply to  Emeka Odugu

Amen. God bless you bro

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