14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Sunday Church at Home
during the Coronavirus Pandemic
The Power of God is Manifested Through the Weakness.
The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: Today’s readings introduce Jesus as a prophet and explain how prophets and other messengers from God inevitably suffer rejection. The readings challenge us to face rejection and hardship with prophetic courage.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Ezekiel 2:2-5
Introduction to the reading: Our first Scripture reading describes the call of the prophet Ezekiel. He was a Jewish priest who was deported to Babylon at the time of the exile. He is called to proclaim God’s word to those who are exiled with him. God warns him that this will be no easy task.
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel
In those days:
The Spirit entered into me and set me upon my feet,
and I heard him speaking to me.
And he said to me,
“Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel,
to a nation of rebels, who have rebelled against me;
they and their ancestors
have transgressed against me to this very day.
The people also are impudent and stubborn:
I send you to them, and you shall say to them,
‘Thus says the Lord God.’
And whether they hear or refuse to hear
(for they are a rebellious house)
they will know that there has been a prophet among them.”
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 123:1-2a.2bc.3-4 (R. 2ef)
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:
R/. Our eyes look to the Lord,
till he have mercy on us.
To you have I lifted up my eyes,
you who dwell in the heavens.
Behold, like the eyes of slaves
on the hand of their lords.
Like the eyes of a servant
on the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes are on the Lord our God,
till he show us his mercy.
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
We are filled with contempt.
Indeed, all too full is our soul
with the scorn of the arrogant,
the disdain of the proud.
R/. Our eyes look to the Lord,
till he have mercy on us.
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Introduction to the reading: In the passage just preceding today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he described some of his spiritual visions and revelations. But in today’s passage, he chooses not to boast of these, but rather to talk about how God has worked through him despite his weaknesses.
A reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
Brothers and sisters:
To keep me from being too elated
by the abundance of revelations,
a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan,
to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it should leave;
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
For the sake of Christ, then,
I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and calamities;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.
The word of the Lord.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me;
he has sent me to preach good news to the poor.
Gospel: Mark 6:1-6
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
Jesus came to his own country;
and his disciples followed him.
And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue;
and many who heard him were astonished, saying,
“Where did this man get all this?
What is the wisdom given to him?
What mighty works are wrought by his hands!
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary
and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon,
and are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offence at him.
And Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honour, except in his own country,
and among his own kin, and in his own house.”
And he could do no mighty work there,
except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people
and healed them.
And he marvelled because of their unbelief.
And he went about among the villages teaching.
The Gospel of the Lord
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
There is a funny story about a bishop who was interviewing a seminarian before his ordination as deacon. So the bishop asked him where he would like to be assigned as a deacon for pastoral training. The seminarian said, somewhat boldly, “Oh, my bishop, anywhere but Benoni!” “Why not there,” the bishop asked? “You know,” the seminarian answered, “that’s my hometown — and we all know that ‘a prophet is not without honour except in his native place.’” The bishop replied, “Don’t worry my friend! Nobody in your hometown is going to confuse you with a prophet. 😊
Some years ago, on a hillside near Alberton, I noticed a huge sign that said: Jesus Red. I was vaguely puzzled – is it saying that Jesus wears the colour of a football team or something like that? It took a while before it dawned on me that it is written in Afrikaans and that it means: Jesus Saves.
I have seen bumper stickers that say things like, “My boss is a Jewish carpenter.” Remember the craze for bumper stickers with a fish on them to represent Jesus. Floating around town there are other signs and billboards advertising different churches. In church, of course, there are statues and crucifixes and hymnals proclaiming the name of Jesus. We end our prayers with, “We ask this through Christ our Lord.”
Not just us, but people all over know about Jesus.
Jesus has a reputation for cures; many of us have heard stories about someone getting well after praying to him. Jesus has a good press for saying wise things and showing care for the needy. It is very good that the one who was sent from God, God taking on flesh, is so much a part of our lives. Jesus is important to us and we have lots of reminders of him everywhere we turn.
But there is a way in which Jesus can be everywhere, and nowhere. They say “familiarity breeds contempt.” Well, we won’t go that far, but familiarity can breed indifference and taking-for-granted. Jesus can be so present that he just fits comfortably into the background of our lives; he’s there everywhere… In the shopping mall? At school? In office blocks? At sports fields?
So, we can say like the people in Nazareth – “Oh sure, we know Jesus. He’s one of ours. Been around for years.” We are creatures of habit and we can take things for granted, especially if they are always around… like Jesus. We have a lot on our minds that take up our every waking moment: work, school, finances, family responsibilities, fetching and carrying the kids when we are not in Alert Level 4 lockdown etc.
There is a danger that Jesus may be here with us and we don’t notice, because he’s so familiar to us, so much a part of the furnishings.
We can learn something from today’s gospel story; maybe it will open our eyes to what we are missing. Jesus returns to Nazareth where people are very familiar with him. They know his mother and family. (“Brothers and sisters” could also include his cousins in a close-knit community.) They know Jesus’ trade, he is the carpenter. They also know his reputation for mighty deeds and his wisdom.
They were very familiar with him, he was part of the daily scene; someone they talked to frequently; maybe he even repaired a roof for them, or made them a chair. They probably liked him. But they weren’t willing to take the important next step, beyond familiarity…beyond knowing facts about him. They were not willing to believe that beyond his most ordinary appearances and his, up-till-then, most-ordinary life, that God was there acting through Jesus, ready to do some powerful things for them, and willing to give them divine wisdom.
What a difference it could have made if they looked beyond the everyday appearances and ways of their home boy.
Maybe they wouldn’t have packed up and followed him, but their lives could have changed because of him. They would have looked at one another in a new way, as God-loved. They would have treated each other better, the same way that Jesus treated people. They might have changed their priorities and not measured themselves, or others, by the size of their houses, bank accounts, social status, race, or religion. Maybe, nothing would have been the same for them, because they would have known God, by knowing God in Jesus.
At the end of today’s gospel, there is the sad reflection, “And he could do no mighty work there.”
This always has been a rather puzzling situation. After all, if Jesus is the Messiah, he should be able to work whatever deeds he wants to, no matter what the reaction. But this is the underlying point of Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus’ healing and preaching are not something one person does in order to process another, sort of like a surgical doctor operating on a patient (or like a mechanic fixing a car). We sometimes picture it that way when we pray for things. Fix it, O God, fix it. You must do it!
Instead, Jesus was always pointing to the relational nature of everything he did.
When he did a miracle he would say “your faith has saved you.” What does Jesus mean by that? I would say, I thought you saved me, Lord. Yes, but there has to be a fertile seed-bed first. Faith is the rich soil that lets God be planted in and flourish within our lives. He will never force teachings or miracles on us until we are ready to relate to him in love. This is why Sunday’s Gospel ends with the words, “And he marvelled because of their unbelief.” Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.”
We have to release Jesus and God from the categories we have fixed them into. We may have to have our own ground ploughed up a bit to let the rich fertility inside us be opened to the seeds of love, wisdom, hope and faith that God wants to plant there.
We need to start putting love first.
From today’s reading from Ezekiel:
“As the Lord spoke to me the spirit entered into me
and set me on my feet, and I heard the one who was speaking say to me.
“Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites….’”
Jesus and Ezekiel didn’t come from the outside, as strangers, to preach to the people. Today’s readings remind us that they were “home boys.” It is good to remember that, since we women and men are often called to speak a word, or set an example, for those immediately around us; in our family, social circle, or our local community.
So we ask ourselves:
- To whom is God sending me to speak a word of comfort, or challenge?
- Who are those in my life who challenge me to follow God’s ways more closely?
- How can I put love first?
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: In the words of today’s Responsorial Psalm, “Our eyes are on the Lord”, for we know that he is listening to the prayers we now set before him.
We pray for Pope Francis and the bishops: (pause) that they may remain humble, trustful followers of Jesus Christ, especially when they are faced with disturbing problems.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for courage: (pause) that God will empower us to be truth-tellers in our everyday circumstances and witnesses to God’s presence in our relationships and workplaces. LORD HEAR US
We pray for healing: (pause) that the Spirit will comfort us when we are misunderstood, renew us when we have been unjustly criticized, and inspire us to show God’s love each day.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all who are alienated from their families or communities: (pause) that God will open new opportunities for dialogue, understanding, and reconciliation.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for the protection of the human family: (pause) that God will strengthen those who are working to defeat the Covid virus, speed resources to those in crisis, and bring healing to all who are sick.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US
Leader: Let us pray our PRAYER DURING THE CORONVIRUS PANDEMIC:
you travelled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.”
Come to our aid now,
in the midst of the spread of the covid-19 virus,
that we may experience your healing love.
Heal those who are sick with the virus.
May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.
Heal us from fear and misinformation,
which prevents nations from working together
and neighbours from helping one another.
Jesus Christ, healer of all,
stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
Be with those who have died from the virus.
May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.
Be with the families of those who are sick or have died.
As they worry and grieve,
defend them from illness and despair.
May they know your peace.
Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals
who seek to heal and help those affected
and who put themselves at risk in the process.
May they know your protection and peace.
Be with the leaders of all nations.
Give them the wisdom to enable a swift rollout of the vaccines for all our people.
Wherever we are,
surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few,
Jesus Christ, stay with us,
as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare.
In place of our anxiety, give us your peace.
Jesus Christ, heal us.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: Almighty and eternal God,
our refuge in every danger,
to whom we turn in our distress;
in faith we pray
look with compassion on the afflicted,
grant eternal rest to the dead, comfort to mourners,
healing to the sick, peace to the dying,
strength to healthcare workers, wisdom to our leaders
and the courage to reach out to all in love,
so that together we may give glory to your holy name.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.