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14th Sunday OT Prophets

 

JMJ

You remember that a few weeks back I spoke about the Gospel of Mark as being the only one of the four evangelists to say anything about what Jesus did before he began his mission. He told us that Jesus was a carpenter. Everyone knows about Joseph being the carpenter of Nazareth, but did Jesus follow in his footsteps? That’s been the tradition but it has its basis in today’s gospel which actually confirms it.

Mark wrote his Gospel in Greek and the word used for carpenter is tekton which could mean, carpenter, builder, or craftsman. He could indeed then have had a small shop attached to the house, and made anything from furniture, to farm implements, like plows and pitchforks, or yokes for oxen.

On the other hand he could have been a traveling tradesman. There was a big metropolitan city not too far from Nazareth named Sepphoris. It’s not mentioned in the bible but it was a real city, now in ruins. There would have been much work there. He would have worked on houses, doing framing, or doors, or window frames, or shutters.

But, this occupation of his may have actually been a bit of a problem for Him because it was a dilemma for his family and friends, his “brothers and sisters”, and his neighbors. You see, they knew him. On the one hand they recognized that he had indeed done some very dramatic things. But on the other hand, he’s from Nazareth. He’s one of us. And just a simple carpenter.

Remember that the Israelites were looking for different kind of messiah. Something like their ancestor, King, David. And a carpenter from Nazareth just didn’t quite fit the bill. How could this man be a prophet? Jesus responded that a prophet is an honorable profession, but rarely is he accepted in his own town. And so it was. The last line of the Gospels said that he was amazed at their lack of faith. In Him.

All three of today’s readings are about prophets and what they do. And what they do is prophesy. We get some insight into the prophetic role in that first reading from Ezekiel. This common man is having and encounter with God, who lifts him up and says he was being sent to the Israelites, God’s Chosen, who have always been rebels, hard of face and obstinate of heart (another way of saying a “ stiff-necked people”). And you will say to them: “Thus saith the Lord!” And so there you have it. The prophet is the mouthpiece of God. The instrument or channel by which God communicates to his people in a special way and at special times for particular reasons.

Now there are many kinds of prophets. Some are the big names of the OT like Ezekiel and Isaiah, Moses, Jeremiah. These are the major prophets but there are lessers, like Amos, Haggai, Habbakuk. It really has to do with the length of their writings, not necessarily their prestige.

Paul in the second reading was a prophet. He says that because of the abundance of messages he had been given by God it seemed as if it was necessary for him to be humbled by that mysterious thorn in the flesh. We don’t really know what that was. Maybe it was the stigmata.

John the Baptist was a prophet, the first of the New Testament era.

And of course, Jesus was a prophet because he spoke on behalf of His Father, as he spoke on behalf of himself.

Now even though I am not a prophet I serve in a prophetic role when I report on those other prophets or when I teach on behalf of the Church. I can assure you that I do not get any direct messages from on high. I don’t hear voices. I might get an inspiration now and then. Maybe even right now as I speak, or as these words came to me earlier in the week.

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Now, every day we priests are required to do Morning Prayer and we have a gospel reading that kind of inspires us in our prophetic role. It’s from the 1st Chapter of Luke and it’s called the Canticle of Zechariah. He was John the Baptist’s dad. Remember that he was struck mute for the 9 months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. But at the birth his tongue was loosed and his first words was this prayer, directed, in part, to his son. He says: “ ….and you my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High. You will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation, by the forgiveness of their sins.”

And that’s essentially “what we do” in all we do as priests.

Last week I mentioned Padre Pio. I watched a great movie about him last week and so my interest in him has been kind of re-kindled. I hope you all know about him. He was a modern day prophet. He lived in Italy and died in his early 80’s in 1967.

Like his predecessor, St. Francis, He had the stigmata, wounds in his hands and feet, and side. And it was a humiliation to him, not unlike the thorn in St. Paul’s flesh. And he suffered in spirit as well.

As his reputation spread, people would come to him from all around the world. They would go to him for confession, and attend his masses. And his masses were special. He would get up at 3:30 and prepare for about two hours before mass at 5. And his admirers would already be there waiting in line. His masses would last over two hours and you coulda heard a pin drop. The people would be mesmerized because it seemed as if he was actually enduring the passion during the mass. He would wince in pain from his wounds. He would spend a great amount to time at the intercessions, praying for the many people he promised to pray for. He held the host up for a long time during the Consecration.

Because of all of this he was investigated by the Vatican. Some thought he was a kook. In the movie there was a scene which may have been fictional but it was certainly based on truth. The padre was saying mass, and like I said, he was deeply into it. The congregation   was hanging on every word. He elevated the host and everyone was in awe. He held the chalice aloft for a very long time. One of the priest inquisitors who was there to observe the monk glanced down at his watch, irritated that all of this was taking so long. And the Padre, without even looking up, said just loud enough for all to hear, “it is inappropriate to look at your watch during the Passion of the Christ? A very prophetic statement, I thought.

A few weeks ago I provided an insert for the bulletin titled: “For your Consideration.” A list of guidelines put together by me, for your benefit. I tried to be a bit lighthearted. I don’t like to come off like a tyrant, like some of the earlier priests have been accused of. I wanted to think that you would all take it home and say, you know, he’s right. Maybe I’ve been remiss in doing this or that. Considering where we’re at and what we are doing, maybe I should dress up as if I am at the Passion of the Christ. Or maybe I should dress a bit more modestly. Maybe I should come a little earlier and say a prayer or two to prepare.

Maybe some of you did make some changes. But many of you apparently didn’t get it. Last week as I finished distributing communion I went to the back of the church to give the Eucharist to some of our mass goers who sit in the handicapped section. As I went back people were walking past me out the door and heading for the hills. Something snapped in me. I guess you could say that I was amazed at their lack of faith. But I called out to them and said, “Hey wait, the mass isn’t over. I haven’t said the final prayer, I haven’t given the final blessing. I haven’t said, “The mass is ended, go in peace to love and serve the Lord. ‘”

I have not been this vocal in a long time but like I said, it was like Popeye once said, “That’s all I can stands, I cant stands no more” . But the reason behind my outburst was that I thought that this behavior was rudeFirst and foremost to Jesus, but last week it was also rude to our guest who was scheduled to say a few words to us at the end of mass. Words about some Italian nuns who have given up their lives in the world to live with the poor in a remote village in Romania.

And our guest had given two years of her life to the Peace Corps to also serve there, and now serves the sisters as a fundraiser, doing something that I’m sure is not terribly comfortable to her, namely public begging.  

But I thought that as part of my prophetic role I should say something today about our Catholic behavior here in church. I thought that I might go back to the insert I gave you a few weeks ago “For Your Consideration” because it apparently it did not quite sink in with all of you. But instead of that, I have provided yet another insert for you today which comes from someone who speaks with more prophetic authority than myself, namely a successor to the apostles, a bishop. Bishop Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island. He covers all the major categories that I spoke of and then some. And to be honest with you, I felt I had to do a little editing because the “bish”got a little unkind. But please, read what the bishop had to say. Do an examination of your conscience and repent of what needs repenting of.

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