The Eucharistic liturgy is somewhat of a “stop-and-go” event. We prepare for the next celebration by living what we have stopped to receive at the last one. If we have really stopped, and sincerely received the Sacred Word and the Sacred Presence, then we both live out and live towards.
These days we can stop before attending and attend to God’s offering us our truest identity and how we are called to live more freely the identity God calls us communally and individually to be.
We can pray with a greater sensitivity to God’s personally calling us to receive His grace and to not be confined by other false identities with which we might have lived in the past.
Ezekiel is offered a quite delightful dessert after his being fed with a call from God. This is what we hear in our First Reading. He is asked to go and speak to the headstrong and stiff-necked people of Israel who are “rebellious”.
So this is the main course, the dessert is the scroll which God asks Ezekiel to eat. We do not hear this part of the meal, but Ezekiel hears that he must speak directly to this nation of chosen people, but he should not be afraid of their negative responses.
After this missioning meal, Ezekiel knows who he is in God’s eyes and what other people might think of him will not be any of his business.
In the past weeks we have seen Jesus calming a storm and healing two women in their sicknesses. Jesus has been on the road doing great things and developing quite a reputation. In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to his native town.
They all know who he is through his family relationships and his former occupation. They confine him to a carpenter’s box and fail to see the presence of a Prophet in their midst. They remain blinded by what they see. Jesus is inviting them to recognize that which the two women and the apostolic boatmen came to see, that Jesus was more than meets the eye.
The townsfolk, by their self-satisfying naming of Jesus, have a sense that there is nothing new here and so they do not have to change their views of themselves or their lives and relationships. This is precisely what Jesus has come to do. We have a similar sense that knowledge, exactness, gives us control.
I have listened lately to various commercials promising that a particular hair oil or spray will give a person “control”. Buying four new tires will give a person a sense of “control”. We just love having that sense and one good way is confining reality, or other people to knowable images or identities and we then have the power over them, “control!”
Myth has been a way of explaining realities. “Thunder is nothing more than angels bowling. Raindrops are God’s tears of sadness or joy. Creation began on the back of a huge sea turtle.” There are things we cannot figure out and so we can make up or own rather reasonable answers.
People are hard to figure out, even ourselves. The closer we get to a person the more we think we know them and so have some control over them. Always though, there comes a time when we say to a spouse or close friend, “I can’t figure you out sometimes.” In fact that is a statement of flattery. The proper response is, “Thank you.”
Jesus is not offering the comfort of easy confinement. The two women and the now-calmed apostles allow Jesus to be more than they can grasp and manipulate. We are offered the opportunity to follow in faith, through the mystery of our own lives, Jesus, Who will always be beyond control. He is beyond myth, but within the purview of faith.
Jesus offers His disciples and here, His neighbors, a relationship which is out-of-controllability. These former friends thought they had Him figured out, had Him in their sights. The disciples were learning that Jesus and they themselves, were growing to be and going to be living lives beyond myth. True faith is living that way as well.
We so would love to figure out life, suffering, death, love, God, and our own little selves, and that would be the very beginning of not living. Next Sunday’s Gospel will picture Jesus sending out His disciples. They are to take no maps, no Global Positioning Systems, nothing which will help relieve the tension of trusting. Security is important, but it regains its proper proportion when it is sought through relationships and especially with Jesus. That is what it means to be a disciple. We are invited to live beyond the myth of the Map quest boredom-quest life. Relationships which have no adventure have no future and that is the style of living to which Jesus calls us, while His neighbors ponder and figure it all in.
“The sparrow even finds a home, the swallow finds a nest wherein to place her young, near to your altars, Lord, of Host, my king, my God.” Ps. 84, 4-5
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