14TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B ON JULY 4, 2021 (R. 1: Ezekiel 2: 2-5; Psalm 123: 1-4; R. 2: 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10; Gospel: Mark 6: 1-6)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
FREED FOR GOD!
Today is 4th of July, the day we celebrate the independence of our great nation, the United States of America. I believe, we are all looking forward to the fireworks, barbecues, parties, and other exciting events that mark this special day. As we do that, I hope we also remember to pray for those who fought for this Independence and those who are still fighting to sustain it. I hope we remember to pray for those who lost their lives for this course and those left behind to mourn them. At this Mass, we pray for all of them and for our great nation. God Bless America! We pray that God may remind the people of this great nation that the greatness of this nation comes from God, and that this nation can only remain great and become greater by giving God His rightful position in the life of the nation. Remember the words of George Washington, the first president of the United States, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and Bible.”
The celebration of Independence is the celebration of freedom. There are two sides to freedom, but unfortunately, one side seems to be overemphasized while the other side is silenced. The two sides are freedom from and freedom for. There seems to be so much emphasis on freedom from and hardly is any attention given to freedom for. In the Book of Exodus, when God called Moses to free the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, he did not only free them from, but he also freed them for. The message was, “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness” (Exodus 5:1). So, they were freed from Pharaoh and freed for God. After Moses, God continued to send Prophets to remind His chosen people of what they were freed from and Whom they are free for. Today we encounter one of such prophets, Ezekiel in the first reading.
There is always the strong temptation to return to that from which we have been freed. It is one thing to take the Israelites out of Egypt, but it is another thing to take Egypt out of the Israelites. Looking at human history generally, we come across a common pattern. A small group breaks away from a larger group because of dissatisfaction with the larger group. But after a short while of being freed from the larger group, the new group begins to do that which was criticized in the larger group.
As we celebrate the Independence of the United States, it is very important for us to remember what we condemned and sought independence from; let us be sure we are not repeating what we condemned in others or even doing worse than that. The prophets in our midst are meant to keep us from going back to that from which we have been delivered. We all have double roles to play here. By virtue of our baptism, we are priests, kings and prophets. Like Prophet Ezekiel, we have the responsibility to deliver the message of the Lord to our nation, that all may be free from evil and free for God.
The prophet usually begins by saying, “Thus says the Lord God.” Whatever comes after those words are God’s words and not products of the Prophet’s imagination. Similarly, we are charged to preach the true word of God without adulteration. The Gospel is meant to change the world and not the world to change the Gospel. Christians are called to change the world and not the other way round. The truth might be bitter but that is not the complete story; the truth also saves.
Being a prophet is not an easy job. It was not easy for Ezekiel, but he kept on; St. Paul in the second reading had his challenges but relied on the grace of God. Even Jesus in today’s gospel passage was rejected by his jealous neighbors and fellow citizens of Nazareth. He must have been demoralized, but he did not end his journey there. We are the new prophets to our own world; we are called to repeat the truth that comes from God to the world. We may become unpopular because of that, but in the long run, God will glorify our works. To prophesy to others, we must also be ready to go through all that it takes to listen to God’s words ourselves even when it is “inconvenient.” May God grant us the grace to listen to his word with open hearts and to share the word received with others through our words and deeds until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God bless America!