My Dear People,
In the Reading of Ezekiel, God tells the prophet that Israel is a “Nation of rebels” or, as it is put a little further on in the text a “rebellious house.” The book defines the people of Israel in this negative way because it sums up the sinful history of their forebearers and their own hostility toward God. Their rebelliousness involves arrogance towards God, rejection of his commandments, and refusal to listen to what he says. It makes them stubborn: one can even see it in their faces. Time and again Ezekiel tells them that their sin is grave, for they have freely chosen to adopt this attitude. They “will not listen to you” the Lord says to Ezekiel, “for they are not willing to listen to me.”
Precisely because sin requires a free act of the will, the prophet puts special emphasis on personal responsibility. Each individual will be punished for his or her sins. Because the people are so rebellious, God wants the prophet to be especially docile: “Do not be rebellious.” The Lord asks him to listen carefully to the word of God and to accept it joyfully. Ezekiel emphasizes the infinite majesty of the Lord who speaks with full authority. The people’s stubbornness in rejecting God’s word is an act of rebellion, and the docility shown by the prophet is an almost obligatory act of submission. Ezekiel speaks the word of God even if the people refuse to listen. True prophets are those who say the words that God has spoken to them; the prophet of God is the one who delivers the words of God to men who cannot or do not deserve to understand God himself. “They will know that there has been a prophet among them”: a formal confirmation that Ezekiel is indeed a prophet. At a time when there was no king (for he was a prisoner of Nebuchadnezzar) and no temple (for it had been destroyed) and no social or religious institutions among the Jews, the prophets acquired increased status. The prophet was God’s only representative among the people, he was the only one with authority to demand that they listen to his message.
In the Gospel Jesus has a similar experience to Ezekiel’s-- he was not accepted in Nazareth. Today Jesus goes back to the place where he grew up and lived for most of his life: Nazareth. What was different this time from the time he was there before was this: When Jesus went to John the Baptist and was baptized in the River Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove, and then the word of the Father was heard. “This is my beloved son. Follow him.”
Now that the Holy Spirit was with Jesus, there were signs of Jesus healing people and speaking with wisdom. The townspeople were taken aback and offended. They asked, “Where did he get all this?” They try to fit Jesus into their preconceived ideas. Jesus did not fit any of their own understanding of him. They took offense to this. You would think that they would be happy that one of their own was able to do all these things, which they had heard about. Their preconceived ideas about Jesus confirms this fact: they did not give Jesus consideration. They would have wanted to see Jesus do great miracles. But their lack of faith was so great that Jesus was only able to heal a few ill people. The people of Nazareth could not deny the greatness of his wisdom, but they did not want to recognize it as one of the great signs of his mission. They praised him as a teacher, but they disrespected him as a Messiah because they did not want to admit that the king for whom they were waiting would come from such humble conditions. Their unbelief was astonishing to Jesus. No prophet gains acceptance among his people, in his own home.
This is the way that sterile souls act. They admire the beauty of the Gospel, yet they deny Jesus in their lives. When the Gospel is matched with their lives it seems unworthy of their lives. The Gospel seems to be beneath them. It is a small stone that strikes against the idolatries of humanity and its pretentious wisdom.
These people lament that Jesus does not perform great signs. It is their pride that blocks their faith in Jesus and that blocks the Lord from performing signs.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Vincent Clemente