The readings of today give us an insight into the sufferings of the prophet. Ezekiel was called and sent as a youth into exile in Babylon, aged 25 years. He was sent as a priest and a prophet to 4,600 Jews who were taken into captivity by the Babylonian army. The vocation of a prophet is to keep the faith alive in those to whom the prophet is sent in times of rejection, defiance, rebellion and darkness. Our world today contains parallels to that of Ezekiel.
Ezekiel’s name means “God is my strength”. No doubt this is where he got his strength to encourage and challenge the Jews in their time of darkness and pain of exile, far away from home, without any of their home comforts such as a Temple or a synagogue or friends. He managed to keep the flame of Faith alive by answering his call of loving service to others and helping wherever he could.
Psalm 122 recalls the faithfulness of all who seek God until God shows us his mercy. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul shares his weakness with us in Chapter 12 which allowed him to recognise his dependence on Christ, on God- not his own power and gifts but God’s power working through him.
He tells us that he is happy to share his sufferings with us for “when Paul is weak, then he is strong”. Suffering and pain are as much an expression of the Divine as joy is. When suffering, my ego is not in control and so my real Self shines through my pain. Once accepted, suffering and pain cease when we find a meaning such as sacrifice. Wisdom integrates suffering into compassion, tolerance and caring, empowering me to move towards others with the energy of true love. Suffering and love are inseparable. Paul knew this too well as he had his share of suffering and pain throughout his life of loving service to the early Church.
The gospel of Mark tells us about Jesus’ homecoming which should have been a happy one but unfortunately was marked by rejection and suffering because of the lack of faith of his own people. They were astonished by his teaching in the synagogue, amazed at his learning but questioned his authority and lineage. The Nazarines had no faith in Jesus so he could work no miracles there because of their lack of faith. Both Ezekiel and Jesus were rejected because their message challenges the status quo and seeks to restore the balance and equality ignored by those with wealth and power. Jesus’ life can demand too much for some of us to fully live his life. Jesus’ top priorities were trust and service of neighbour. He challenges us in this gospel to ask ourselves the following questions:
- How do I handle rejection in my own daily life?
- Am I accepting of all those I come in contact with daily or do I favour some over others?
Our call is alive and active today as it was in the time of the Prophets.
Consider your response now in 2015.
Sr. Dympna Travers OP