When we entered the grace-life through Baptism, we were anointed also into Christ’s manner of living as a prophet. This means more than being able to predict the future of course; it means living as humans were meant to live. There is a certain non-conformity to the way Jesus lived as prophet and while extending the divine love towards humanity, he did not expect, demand or manipulate popular acceptance.
We are praying these days for the grace of fidelity to our baptismal vocation of being an insult to the spirits, manners and dependencies of this-world’s ways. We can pray for an independence from such tendencies as can prevent us from loving and relating with the marginal, needing to be identified by our family’s history, or doing only those actions which create a popular image. We are prophets when our life style reflects an alternative to the easy conformities of our cultures. Ezekiel had to stand up; Jesus and the disciples had to stand up for who they were. We can pray to stand up and stand by who God says we are and how we will find peace by how we live. We pray these days for such graces so we can amaze those who think they know us.
This weekend in the United States we are celebrating the successful rebellion against King George and the English domination of our country’s beginning. There were rebels who desired to live free from what they experienced as tyranny. Independence and freedom are so precious to the human heart and yet we live constantly under the tyranny of what can appear as freedom.
Ezekiel, in our First Reading, gets a “stand-up call”. He receives the word in the form of a scroll which he is commanded to literally eat. He is to prepare to go to the people of Israel who are hard of face and heart. They are in a constant state of rebellion against a God whom they experience as a tyrant. He is told to go at least there so they know that God is still sending them invitations through a prophet’s presence.
We will be seeing Mark’s Jesus for a few more weeks beginning with this picture of Jesus’ returning to his hometown. The crowd who has been listening to him and watching his miracles can only accept him through his family roots by which they think they know him. He is the carpenter’s boy and the son of Mary down the road. They are confined by what they know and so move to reject him as anything new or different. Jesus remarks that a prophet or special person is not accepted at home where people think they have him or her in a convenient envelope.
I have a friend who while in high school was kicked out of his neighborhood drug store and told never to return again, for causing the owner some grief more than a few times. Twelve years later, while visiting home after his ordination, his mother sent him to the same store. When he walked in the owner looked up and said, “I told you out!” This is a true story and is not a unique one either. Jesus is someone new and different; he has been ordained to be so, but others mistrust and reject his differentness.
Many of the great saints from Peter and Paul to modern-day, holy people have had to live with their pasts in the presence of those who knew them when. More than that, each of us has to live with our pasts which might be known only to ourselves. We can be tempted to reject, resist and deny the newness, the graceful growth of the healing Jesus within us. We have many experiences of our being rebels ourselves; demanding, fighting for our independence. The great freedom for us as humans is to recognize God as, not tyrant, but creator and sustainer. God continues sending us prophets and prophetic moments and events to announce our rebellion and the way to live less troubled lives which result in giving lots of others, grief more than a few times.
Growing, changing, becoming new again are all very frightening, but Ezekiel had to eat the scroll and we too eat God’s word and share his life’s grace in the Eucharist. Jesus did not argue or defend, or reject his neighbors; he continued being who he was and doing who he was as prophet. The questionings of others did not move him to question himself, but remain a question mark in the minds of those who thought they knew the answers. We who follow Jesus are moved to live not as commas, but always as exclamation and question marks ourselves. Jesus left his watchers and listeners scratching their heads by what he taught and what and how he did. We may have scratched our heads many times at these ways. Slowly, we grow in his style of expanding the envelopes into which we have, or others have, put us. We are meant to rebel against the tyrannies of unfreeing expectations and grow into the free state of allowing God to be our loving Lord.
I’d like to think my relationship with Jesus frees me to be a puzzlement, a head-scratcher, and of whom, “they shall know that a prophet has been among them."
“Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Ps. 34
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook