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Pastor's Letter 20210704 - 04 July 2021 - The Priest's Ministry


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July 4th, 2021

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The people asked: “Is this not the carpenter’s Son?”

A Message from Father †Michael

Today’s Theme:   “The Priest’s Ministry”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

A Biblical prophet is someone who has received a divine call to speak God’s Word to His people.  Our First Reading highlights this mission when God sends a prophet to ensure that the people do not remain in ignorance of their disobedience (First Reading: Ezekiel 2:2-5.)  Even though the Word of God could present listeners difficult challenges, it was a Word of love in that it meant that God had not abandoned His people.  God’s spokesman had to be prepared for opposition and rejection.  It happened to the Old Testament prophets, and for Jesus, as well.

At the close of His Galilean ministry, Jesus was rejected by the people of His home town.  They couldn’t bring themselves to believe in the greatness of someone they saw as “one of their own” (Gospel: Mark 6:1-6.)  Consequently, His power was ineffective there. Their rejection was an anticipation of the rejection of the Jewish nation as a whole.   Today’s Christians should not grow discouraged by lack of belief.  

Paul’s  experience of weakness (“a thorn in the flesh,”) taught him humility, and allowed him to experience God’s power in a way that might not otherwise have been possible (Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.)  The words, “My grace is sufficient for you,” are spoken to us, and should give us great consolation in times of struggle.  

Rejection by One’s Own People

Often people must go away from their home and native place in order to “blossom.”  At home, they may feel “cramped,” or “stifled,” through lack of opportunity, challenge and recognition.  

When they come back home, people they knew “back when,” are not prepared for this seemingly “new” persona.  They expect to see the person who went away, returning the same as they are remembered.  In doing so, they feel “comfortable,” and accept them.  The person poses no “challenge” to them.

Better still, in their opinion, if the person should return home “down on their luck.”  Then they would be able to feel sorry for them.  But if they return a “changed” person, they are likely to resent and distrust them.  They, themselves, may be “stuck in a rut,” giving rise to the resentment they feel for someone who has made something of themselves. The tendency is to “cut the returning person down to size”—their own size….

In our story today, Jesus came back home and dearly wanted to share His gifts with His own people.  Instead of being welcomed, however, He found people watching, studying and scrutinizing Him.   As soon as He began to speak in the Synagogue, they became aware of His “special gift”—the gift of wisdom.  Initially they were impressed, even to the point of amazement.  Yet, instead of rejoicing and opening themselves to what He had to offer, they asked, “Where did He get all this?”  The surmised someone had “given” it to Him.  But the simple answer was that it was in Him all along.

Many parents have asked similar questions upon hearing a child of theirs come out with something that has made them wonder.  This stems from personal development theory, wherein we must decide the limits and boundaries to the progress to which another person is capable.  

In our own lives, too, we often have such experiences, or hear of them from our friends and acquaintances who return “home.”  We find people remembering us from our humble origins, who have, in fact, set unconscious boundaries to our capabilities.  Jesus was remembered as the son of an ordinary carpenter, Joseph.  The people said, in effect, “Who does He think He is?”  Old friends and relatives believe they know the “sum of our abilities,” and find our newly developed ones, threatening.  Such attitudes don’t allow from growth and development.  

It’s a familiar, but sad story—the prophet not accepted by his own people.  Often, we fail to acknowledge the gifts and talents of those who are close to us, in our own family, or neighborhood.  We don’t appreciate or recognize the most likely concerted effort that was necessary for someone to gain “newly acquired” expertise and reputation.  We tend not to give them a chance; we may even “put them down,” doing them a great injustice.  And we also suffer because we do not benefit from their goodness and gifts.  

It’s hurtful to be rejected—and particularly so if it comes from our own people.  Oftentimes, we attempt to help someone, drawing on our own talents and skills, but we are rebuffed.  We become frustrated…even helpless.  Met with rejection, we may be tempted to say, “That’s it!  I’m finished with ‘you’ people!”  We decide not to help or care anymore—because it becomes too painful….

Our blessed Lord Jesus didn’t react like this.  He didn’t become embittered.  He did what little He could for the people of Nazareth—curing a few sick people.  Thereupon, He left them behind, taking His light and His gifts elsewhere.

Thorn in the Flesh

Today’s Liturgy also includes Paul’s moment of great frankness (Second Reading: 2 Corinthians12:7-10.)  He tells us that he was granted all manner of visions by God that made him feel that he had one foot in heaven already.  But he also says he was given a “thorn in the flesh” to remind him of his human weakness and to keep him humble.  

“A thorn in the flesh”—it’s a striking and powerful image. We’ve all had the experience of a thorn, or splinter in a finger or foot.  And we’ve also experienced the expression, “Thorn in the side.”  It’s an image that is raw and painful—a constant nagging that is impossible to ignore.  Sometimes, it may annoy us so much that we become angry.  Even though it may be a small thing, such discomforts can be extremely painful.  

The “thorn” is an image of a problem, and can take many forms—illness, worry, burden, addiction, compulsion…. (We assume †Paul’s was some form of physical ailment or distress. He doesn’t say.)  Perhaps, some other person has become “difficult” in our lives.  Mostly, whatever it is, we dearly want to be rid of it.  It’s only natural that we should attempt to rid ourselves of the bother.

In Paul’s case, he had to accept that his “thorn” was something he had to endure; something, against which he would be given the strength to endure.  God’s words, “My grace is sufficient for you,” are spoken to us, too, and should be a great consolation for us.  In spite of human weakness, and at times,  we can utilize prayerful meditation, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to endure our suffering, and actually prosper because of it.  

Paul actually learned to value and even boasted of his “thorn.”  Although he found it a source of weakness and powerlessness, in the moment, it was through the grace of God that he viewed it as a manifestation of God’s power.  “It’s in times of calm, when the boat is going nowhere, that the sailor most appreciates the power of the wind.”  ~~Anonymous

So, it can be for us—in our weakness, we experience God’s power.  In our darkness, we experience His light.  In our sins, we experience His mercy.  If only our “thorn” makes us rely more on that power, and seek recourse in the Holy Spirit, then it will become a source of growth and grace for us, as well.

May God Richly Bless You!

“First: think; Second: dream; Third; believe; And, finally: dare.”

~~Walt Disney~~ 

Be Still and Know.docx

To view a live stream of today’s Mass, click here:  https://youtu.be/M7MCIfBGDbc

Edited by Father Michael
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