First Reading Commentary
Saint Jerome describes the spirit that entered into Ezekiel as a spirit of prophecy. The name Ezekiel means “strength of God.”
“Son of man” is a familiar title in the Gospels as Jesus took this title out of humility. No one gave Jesus this title; He called Himself by these words to show that He was a humble Servant sent by the Almighty as is Ezekiel who, in this Reading, prefigures Christ.
Sadly, the world still has those who are “hard of face and obstinate of heart.” If and when we meet up with individuals who fit this description, consider it a blessing. We bear the name of “Christian” which not only means that we are followers of Jesus Christ, it also means that we must be Jesus Christ to everyone we meet. We are all prophets when we have the opportunity to share the joy we have and it is no accident when we are given those opportunities to evangelize. Like Ezekiel, we have been sent by God to share the Good News. And we hope and pray that the words that God uses to speak through us as well as the example we give from His Spirit dwelling within us will lead to the conversion of others. We may never know about any of the successes of our evangelization efforts; but at least those we meet “shall know that a prophet has been among them.”
Second Reading Commentary
“A thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.” These words are not meant to be taken literally. The message that Saint Paul is trying to convey is that his ministry has given him much trouble and pain. Ancient scholars believed that Paul was suffering from very painful headaches. Saint John Chrysostom believes that Paul is referring to the opposition he faced in his ministry and the “angel of Satan” would be Paul’s name for an adversary. Other opinions suggest that Paul is being constantly bombarded with temptations of the flesh which is being permitted by God for Paul’s greater good. One or all of these theories may be correct. Since Saint Paul’s words are metaphoric, it’s difficult to know exactly what he meant. What we do know is that Paul’s ministry was one of many emotional and physical hardships.
“Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me.” In this verse, the words “three times” are also not meant to be interpreted literally. It is signifying “many times.”
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” These words may seem a bit awkward at first glance because we don’t usually think of power and weakness as being in harmony. The basic message here is to show that when we are at our weakest, it is then that we will see the strength of God’s grace at work within us to sustain us. When we feel weak and helpless, or think there’s nowhere else to turn, that’s usually when we rely on or call upon God the most. To try and understand this more fully, all we need to do is look at the example of Jesus. When He was at His weakest moment, nailed to the Cross, it was then that something of great power and strength was achieved, the salvation of humanity.
Whether or not to follow Jesus is only a decision that we can make as individuals using our God given free will. Our friends and relatives can’t make that decision for us. Not even God can make that decision for us. Only we can decide whether we are going to embrace His love and love Him in return, or reject Him.
In this Gospel we see Jesus rejected by “His native place.” As a result, “He was not able to perform any mighty deed there.” The same is true for us. If we do not embrace God’s love, it will be difficult for us to witness the mighty power of God at work within us.
There is a purpose to everything that Jesus did. Perhaps in this Gospel Jesus is showing His apostles and us that discipleship will sometimes face rejection, even among our friends and family. Also, this rejection is preparing His disciples for the final rejection, when Jesus is crucified. If we need to find comfort when the world rejects us or if we lack courage for fear of rejection from others because of our love for Jesus, remember the words of our Lord in John 16:33, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”
Isn’t there some level of trepidation in the statement that Jesus “was amazed at their lack of faith?” Can our faith be so lacking or non-existent that even Jesus Himself is scratching His Head? Does today’s highly secularized culture, our moral relativistic society amaze Jesus? And if so, what will be the cost?