Date: Sunday, July 04, 2021
There is an optional rite at baptism called “Ephphatha” an Aramaic word spoken by Jesus meaning “be open.” The priest or deacon touches the ear of the baby and close to the tongue and says “ephphatha” -- be open to hear and proclaim the Word of God. There is an essential rite at baptism when the baby, child or adult is anointed with sacred chrism to be a priest, a prophet and king to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. It may surprise us to learn that we are anointed to be prophets.
God calls prophets to be messengers of truth. Ezekiel, in our first reading, puts it this way: “As the Lord spoke to me, the spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard the one who was speaking say I am sending you.” It is not easy to be a prophet. Ask anyone who ever protested for peace, spoke up for the sanctity of life in the womb, defended the environment, lobbied on behalf of the poor. They will tell you the rejection that comes with the job description. Prophets make us uncomfortable. They challenge the way we are living and outline the consequences of our choices. God is setting Ezekiel up for failure and rejection. Only in time, often after the life (and death) of the prophet does the prophets’ words prove true.
St. Paul writes to the Corinthians about something he has discovered about being an apostle, that is, one who is chosen and sent as God’s preacher. Paul has received a wonderful revelation that he must share. But with honesty and humility he confesses “a thorn in the flesh” that hinders his mission. We do not know what it was – a physical or mental disability or opponents within the Church at Corinth. Paul prays three time for God to remove the obstacle. Paul then discovers God’s strength in his weakness. Paul will come not to boast in his own persuasive ability to speak and write but only in the power of Christ.
Jesus comes to his hometown and teaches in the synagogue. Listeners are astonished at what he says, yet many reject his message because they think they know him as one of their own who has become an upstart. Can we imagine the sadness of Jesus being rejected by people familiar to him? But we do know that rejection when we speak a word of truth and concern about someone’s excessive drinking, about the people they are hanging around with, about the choices they are making. It is not easy to stand up for what, for whom we believe in and the values we espouse. There is a cost to speaking God’s Word of truth in love. There is also a great cost to listen to a prophet, to truly hear honest words from another person who is concerned about our welfare and who challenges us to see things differently – from God’s point of view.