Today's readings give us a lot of possibilities, a lot of topics to talk about.
Surfing on the internet in search of some good thoughts for today's homily I saw that some preachers are talking about the (!!!) virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary because in the Gospel there is a sentence:
"Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?"
Some others are talking about the psychological problems of St. Paul because in the second reading we have the sentence:
"... a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated."
I choose however, the subject which apparently is not very popular but which is present in both: the first and the third readings; means Jesus' or God's claims and our attitude, our "delicateness" or "fragility". Does God have the rights to claim something from us? Does He have the right to tell us that we are wrong in some of our acts and deeds?
In the Old Testament God sent prophets like Ezekiel to call people back to the right path. They did not listen because their faces had become hard. (Ez 2:4) Easy to recognize that hardness in others, but more difficult to see when we look in the mirror. If I am told that my behaviour is not correct or that I am doing something wrong, I feel immediately offended, upset, hurt or even insulted.
Ezekiel was not eager to take on the role of prophet. He knew the people would say, "Who are you to tell us what to do?" And this is the case of each prophet. This is the case of the pope or bishop. This is the case of those who were chosen by Christ to teach and to take care of the spiritual good of the flock of Christ.
St. Paul in his Second Letter to Timothy writes something which is perfectly fitting today's topic:
"I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths." (2 Tim 4,1-5)
In our lives everything should be nice, smooth, soft and pleasant. I don't pretend that it should be always rude, harsh, cruel and unkind or impolite, but ... should it really be always soft and pleasant?
To the priests Pope Benedict XVI said recently: "Do not try to be understood by the world, but rather to be of Christ in the truth." And this is what we have to admit, we have to be all "of Christ in the truth" even if sometimes this truth is very awkward and uncomfortable.
The same thing happened to Jesus when he went back to his home town of Nazareth. You would have expected the people to have received with honours. But instead of being proud of their most famous son, they reacted with envy. Jesus also received an unenthusiastic reception from his countrymen. “They took offense at him.” (Mk 6:3)
That kind of reception will become more common for those serious about their Catholic faith. They will be judged as offensive, harsh, unpleasant and so on. History professor Philip Jenkins has written an insightful book titled "The New Anti-Catholicism". Not a Catholic himself, he analyzes what has become the “last acceptable prejudice.” The prejudice shows itself not just in fringe groups who are openly anti-Catholic, but right in the mainstream: major even catholic newspapers, movies, television, and the arts. One reason for this hostility is the teaching of the Church on matters like divorce, contraception, abortion and homosexuality. Church is not soft, not kind, not tolerant ... these are the claims of those who feel offended or upset with the Church (and finally Jesus') teaching.
We have to be politically correct; we have to be by all means "tolerant" and kind, liberal and "charitable".
More generally it is the mentality coming up from the 60' and 70' conviction expressed in the principle: "If you feel good, just do it". And if you don't feel good it must be wrong, it must be an offence and injustice.
Pope Paul VI wrote the Encyclical Letter "Humane Vitae" and ... how many Catholics disagreed with Him and revolted against the teaching of the Church because they didn't feel good. Pope Benedict XVI said about the immorality of using the condoms and ... how many Catholics protested and even left the Church?
I read somewhere on the internet that over 10% of American adults have left the Catholic Church after having been raised Catholic. Two-thirds of those former Catholics, say they left the Church due to no longer believing in some of its teachings. Nearly six-in-ten former Catholics who are now unaffiliated said they left due to dissatisfaction with Catholic teachings on abortion and homosexuality. About half cited are upset about Catholic teachings on birth control.
Cardinal J. Ratzinger (present Pope Benedict XVI) in the book “God and the World” wrote:
“If the Church simply aims to please everybody or to avoid conflict, merely to ensure that no disturbances arise anywhere, then her real message can no longer make any impact.”
The Church which tries to please everybody and to be politically correct loses her credibility, and becomes a traitor, a betrayer of Christ, Her Founder.
Card. André Vingt-Trois – archbishop of Paris commented this problem in the words:
„Christ didn’t come to accept the opinions of the majority or to adjust to the politically correct ideologies of His time. He did have much greater ambitions; He came to call sinners to repentance and holiness.”
Because the Catholic Church does not claim to have the authority -other churches claim to have- to change “the Deposit of Faith” entrusted to her by Christ, she cannot allow such things as divorce, or priestesses, or sodomy or abortion, however fashionable these things may become in society. Her Lord is not ‘society,’ or the world, but Christ.
This was the mission of Ezekiel:
"I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day. Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD!
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house— they shall know that a prophet has been among them."
In today’s Gospel we have some men who did not want to have their minds disturbed. They thought they already knew Jesus – his job, his family. They had observed him growing up. Also his “brothers and sisters” although perhaps on that score they were confused as some people today. But hearing about miracles and wisdom, they did not want to investigate.
In that regard they are like people today. Many think they know who Jesus is – a good man, a great teacher, like the Buddha. However, they don’t want to consider his claims: “Before Abraham came be, I AM.” “The Father and I are one.” Jesus forgave sins, proclaimed himself Master of the Sabbath and the Bridegroom in whose presence no one fasts. In other words, he claimed divine status.
We need to see beyond appearances. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and His claims are justified. Something similar can happen if we open ourselves to Jesus and his teachings. I do not deny that Jesus – and his Church – make some astonishing claims. Like the Nazarenes we can take offense, be upset or feel bad – or, like Peter, worship. There is no middle ground.
If Jesus is the Son of God and He is the Founder of the Church, I believe and I trust Him and the Church. This is what we profess in Creed, when we say: "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church".