Sunday, July 8, 2018

When God Speaks

July 8, 2018: 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Ezekiel 2:2–5 / Psalm 123 / 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 / Mark 6:1–6a
When God Speaks

God has been speaking throughout eternity. John opens his Gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Scripture begins with Genesis saying that God spoke all that exists into being; at the core of creation are the words, And God said…. 

God’s speech has continued coming into the world since the beginning of creation. The Psalmist affirms (19:1–4):
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

God also speaks specifically in special and explicit ways through people he chooses and inspires. The writer to the Hebrews starts his letter saying, In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets (1:1). Then the letter gives the culminating point that is the basis of our Christian Faith: in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature (1:2–3a). This is why Jesus told Philip, He who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9).

Today’s readings give us some insight into how and why God speaks. This is important because, since God is always speaking into our world––and to each one of us, we need to know what to listen for and how to understand what God is saying. One big clue is in the closing book of Scripture. Jesus says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20). God speaks to us so we can know him and love him and have an ongoing relationship with him!

Sometimes God says hard things. He says things we do not want to hear. He says things that we cannot understand if we are not open to what he is wanting to do. God sent Ezekiel to speak to people who had rejected him. Even though Israel had the special graces of God’s redemption and revelation, they rebelled and closed their hearts, choosing to do what seemed more pleasurable than obeying God. In spite of that––in spite of rebellion and disobedience and some awful sins–– God still speaks to them. This is to let us know that our sin is not bigger than God’s Father-heart. God always longs for us to truly know him and live under his blessings.

God spoke another way through St Paul. This time the focus is on the messenger rather than the recipients. Yet it still a hard word from a human point of view. Israel, as the recipient of Ezekiel’s words, was being rebuked for her sins; Paul, as the messenger of God’s words, was struggling with what he called a thorn in the flesh. We aren’t sure what this was, but it was something so hard and so discouraging to Paul that he confesses he asked the Lord three times to remove it from his life. All three times the prayer of St Paul, the spiritual giant, was rejected.

Why does our loving Father not take a hard thing away when we humbly, and yet in the strong name of Jesus, ask him for relief? Paul says it was so he could understand something deeper––something that only comes through weakness and suffering. God says, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

One of the most dangerous times in our spiritual lives is when things are going so well that we think we’re doing pretty good by ourselves. Paul understood that God had given him a hard thing to keep me from being too elated. When God speaks through people, it important that it is clear it is God who speaking and working, and not the self-promotion of the human messenger. So even with St Paul, the Lord chose to speak through a “wounded servant.”

This should not surprise us (but it seems to do so––continually) because God spoke his ultimate Truth through his Suffering Servant Son. We see this in today’s Gospel. After being out in ministry in neighboring towns, Jesus went back home. He was ridiculed and rejected. As I said earlier, the Lord says things that we cannot understand if we are not open to what he is wanting to do.

The rejection of Jesus in his home town was a preview of what was to come. His final rejection was the cross, and as he hung there the onlookers ridiculed his seeming helplessness. Yet God was “speaking” the ultimate Word. It was the full expression of Life through the Son’s death on the cross! This is our Faith! And it is wonderful…. but it is not easy.

God is speaking today.

To people addicted to their sins, God is saying “you know this is wrong; please let me come in.” 

To people who feel crushed with weakness and pain and stress, God is saying, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

To all of us, God is saying that being open to Jesus––having faith in Jesus––is wisdom and life and eternal salvation.

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