14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“A prophet is not without honor except in his own native place.”
“The Sound of Silence” is a hit song of Simon & Garfunkel. It conveys a powerful warning against the dangers of indifference, which comes in handy today. And it is considered as a social commentary on the shallowness of the social environment we live in. There is this line in the song that says, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls and whispered in the sound of silence.”
Today’s first reading and gospel reading talk about prophets. God continues to send, in our own time and space, prophets who speak his Word to us. The gospel, in particular, confronts us with this reality: We reject the prophets in our midst all the time.
First, we reject the prophets who do not conform to our personal standards and preconceived ideas. We play down the message of the prophets who do not have enough credentials and qualifications, especially if they have lesser educational attainments than us. We do not listen to the teachings of the prophets who do not meet our moral standards, especially if their reputation is somehow tainted. We do not pay attention to the prophets who talk about socio-political issues, reading them in the light of the Word of God, because we subscribe to the wrong belief that they should only speak of “spiritual things.”
Second, we reject the prophets who remind us of who we are and who God is. We hardly listen to those who try to make us think of what it means and implies to say that we are only creatures and that we are totally dependent on our Creator and no created things can ever satisfy our deepest needs. We do not really appreciate being reminded that God owns everything and we own nothing – that we are only stewards of God’s gifts and we are not to use them for ourselves only, but rather, for the common good, particularly for the welfare of the poor and deprived. We are to share our time, talents, and resources to our neighbor and our community.
Third, we reject the prophets who disturb us and challenge our way of life. We do not heed their call to repentance and conversion, to change our ways and follow the way of the Lord. We dismiss their appeal to get out of our comfort zones, to personally share and actively participate in the life and mission of Christ. We react vehemently to their criticism and condemnation of our attachment to material things, and of our addiction to sensual pleasures.
More often than not we reject the prophets in our midst. But the fact is, all baptized Christians are called to be prophets – called to announce the Word of God. I invite you to see yourselves in the person of Ezekiel, in today’s first reading, as the Lord tells him, “I am sending you to the Israelites… to the rebels who have rebelled against me.”
The Lord is not sending us to his fans and admirers; he is not sending us to Christ’s followers and disciples; he is not sending us to those who embrace the Gospel and who live by its values and principles. The Lord is sending us to those who have rebelled against him. They are the worshippers of other gods – the gods of wealth, power, fame, prestige, comfort, convenience. The promoters of ways, systems, and philosophies of life that are contrary to God’s Commandments. The cultic followers of false messiahs – those who promise a better life for them. Those who have separated themselves from God; those who have turned away from the faith; those who have set aside the gospel values and have adopted the distorted values of the world. They are not going to like you. They are going to find your words unpleasant, offensive, annoying, insulting, appalling.
Today, prophets are attacked with foul language – curses, profanities, vulgarities, obscenities, blasphemies – by trolls, bashers, bullies, goons, and thugs who vehemently and violently defend their idols and their immoral ways and means. Jesus says in today’s gospel reading, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” Performing the role of a prophet is not for the faint of heart! But if you do so, take courage, the Lord is with you!