As baptized Catholics, Christ calls us to be a light to the nations, to witness to His goodness and His gospel. But sometimes the hardest people to witness to can be our own families and close friends.
In the first reading, the spirit of the Lord comes and fills the prophet Ezekiel, and God speaks to him. If you stop right there, it sounds like a pretty amazing moment – the Author of life, the Creator of all things, is speaking to me. You can imagine how beautiful and terrifying that must have been. I think our tendency, when we have really powerful experiences with the Lord, like being on a retreat or at a conference, is to want to stay in the goodness of that moment; but notice that right away, God calls Ezekiel to his task, He sends him to the Israelites. God calls them, “rebels who have rebelled against me.” If you read the full passage, God compares this task He has for Ezekiel to sitting among thorns and scorpions.
In the Second reading, Paul talks about the “thorn” in his flesh and an angel of Satan to beat him. For someone who went through such radical conversion, from persecutor to apostle, you would think that he wouldn’t have to go through such hardships as he shares the Gospel with the nations. Three times he pleads with God to remove these troubles and God answers “My Grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.” God is calling Paul and us to rely on Him, and Him alone. God desires to use us, but not for our own glory, but for His glory and His kingdom. Paul goes on to say that he is content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints.
The Gospel follows Jesus as He heads home to minister to the people that He grew up with. These are His neighbors, classmates, relatives. You would think that Jesus would be welcomed and celebrated; instead it says they took offense at Him. Maybe some of you can relate, after coming back from a retreat or conference where you had a profound experience with God, all you receive is doubt and mockery from those closest to you. However, make no mistake; this is your mission ground. God is asking us to live out our baptismal call, to be a light to the nations. The “nations” might have to start in your own homes, in your schools, the lunchroom, the locker room. Just like Ezekiel was sent to the rebellious Israelites and Paul endured pain and persecution for the sake of God’s Kingdom, and Jesus being rejected in His home town, we are being called in the same way. We are being called to this radical discipleship. God doesn’t promise us that it will be easy, but He does say that His grace will be sufficient.