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Posted by on Jul 7, 2024

Unexpected Bearers of God’s Word

Unexpected Bearers of God’s Word

A child is born and worlds of possibility open within a family. Totally helpless and dependent on other people, the child is still a unique individual. Each comes from the womb with their own personality. One will want to nurse immediately. Another will be a bit tired and need time to begin to accept the breast. One may find it hard to nurse. Another will find it easy.

As they grow, they learn to know their family. They begin to smile and “chat” with those who care for them. They notice patterns and recognize the movements of their own hands and feet in comparison to the movements of others. Some are determined to get across the floor to reach something interesting much earlier than others. Some are happy to roll or crawl for a long time. Others want to walk, thank you very much!

We watch the children grow and rejoice in their progress. We laugh at their antics as they explore the world. We comfort them when their exploration goes awry and they get hurt. We set limits so they are protected from danger and learn the ways of their family and culture.

Generally speaking, we tend to think we know them! But I think most parents, at least, will discover at some point that there are aspects of our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews that are surprising to us. They have their own thoughts and experiences. They wonder about things we may never have considered. They learn in ways that are different from the ways we learn. They have talents that are not the same as ours, or they have similar ones but use them in different ways.

These children who have been entrusted to us as individuals and as a community will also hear the Lord’s voice in their own way and in a time that is right for them. We share our beliefs and experiences with them, but they must develop their own relationships – with each other, with their community, and with their God. We are there to support and guide them, but the journey is their own.

Sometimes it surprises us!

Ezekiel did not expect to become a prophet. Granted, he was a priest in exile in Babylon, but the role of a priest is very different from the role of the prophet. The priest leads the community in prayer. The priest offers the sacrifices. The priest keeps things going according to the traditions and rules of the community.

The prophet, on the other hand, is called to speak out and call for change. Prophets remind people of the Lord’s desire for care of the poor. They call for changes in the social order so that justice and mercy are available to all. They demand that the hungry be fed and those in need be clothed and housed. They remind the community of their responsibilities to God and each other.

Ezekiel the priest heard the Lord’s voice and felt the spirit enter into him, setting him on his feet. He was being sent to speak to the people, reminding them of the Lord’s rules and the covenant. The Lord told him, “You shall say to them: Thus says the Lord God!” He was called to be a prophet! (Ez 2:2-5)

Did anyone who knew him as a child expect that? Probably not. But that didn’t stop the call when the time was right and so we proclaim and remember his words to this day.

Jesus was a carpenter. He had learned the trade from his father in the town where he grew up. People liked him. He was a nice guy and had a good reputation before he went off to see that guy John, his cousin, who was baptizing people at the Jordan River. After that, he was a changed man! He didn’t come back to work in the shop. No more working on commissions in nearby towns. His mother didn’t have his income to support her anymore. Other family members stepped in to help.

Then to top it off, stories started coming back about things he had said about God, calling him Daddy! Teaching as if he were one of the rabbis. And healing people! How could an ordinary fellow heal people blind from birth or with crippled legs or arms? Was it all a bunch of tricks? “We know him, for heaven’s sake! Where would all of this come from?”

And then he came to town. He joined the community at the synagogue and as was the custom, he rose to share in the teaching. Those who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands?” It was all too much. This was the son of Mary and Joseph. They knew him. He grew up in their community. He had been their childhood friend. He had played with the other children. He had learned to respect and honor the adults. And now he was teaching them and healing people in other towns! Why not here? How can we believe what he is saying and doing? We know him!

And because they knew him, or at least believed they knew everything about him, they were not able to receive the gifts he was bringing. He was only able to cure a few people. They were unable to accept him as a bearer of messages and acts of love and healing from God. (Mk 6:1-6)

Saul of Tarsus was a well-educated, highly respected teacher of the Law, a Pharisee. He had everything going for him. A good career. The respect of all. Influence in the council of leaders in the faith. Everything.

Then he went on a trip to Damascus to arrest the followers of Jesus there. On the road, he met Jesus! And everything changed. He became Paul and one of the most well-known preachers and teachers of the early Christian movement.

We read the letters of Paul to the communities that formed when he visited their towns all over the Middle East and even traveled to Rome. Yet Paul was not one who was always welcomed. He met much resistance at all stages of his life as an Apostle. He was not easily accepted by the community in Jerusalem. He was rejected by his former colleagues in Jerusalem. He was driven out of many towns where he preached. Eventually he was sent to Rome for trial and execution. Yet he always remembered the encounter with Jesus on the road and the wonder of it.

Paul suffered from some “thorn in the flesh” that he really wished would go away. We never learn what it was, but it was hard for him to bear. Yet the Lord assured him that “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Whatever it was, the fact that he suffered with it allowed the Lord’s power and love to shine through even more brightly to the communities he visited. In weakness there is strength. God’s ways are not our ways. (2 Cor 12:7-10)

A child is born. A world of possibilities opens. In the weakness of each person, in the uniqueness of each person, in the many experiences and gifts of each person, a world of ways opens in which the Lord touches the person and through them touches each of us. We all bring the gifts of the Lord to others. It may be in a smile. It may be in a word. It may be in encouragement to step out and try again after something goes wrong. Each one of us shares in the wonder of the unexpected. Sometimes that unexpected is even a word of love spoken to us personally from the Lord. Listen.

This week, may we keep our eyes and ears open to hear the Lord’s voice in those around us. And may we share the love we receive with all we meet along the way.

Readings for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B