July 7, 2024

Prophetic Teaching

Prophetic Teaching

6th Sunday After Trinity, 7 July
Theme: Prophetic Teaching
Readings: Ezek. 2. 1-5; 2 Cor. 12. 2-10; Mk. 6. 1-13.

Today St Mark takes us to the home of Jesus, back to Nazareth. Just like the prophets before him, including Ezekiel as we hear in our first reading today, the prophet will be rejected by his own people. “Home”, in Mark’s gospel, represents not just the home town of Jesus. It symbolizes the whole people of Israel, his own who did not recognize him as their messiah. So, when he teaches in the synagogue rather than accept his message, they ask, where does he get all this from? In other words, who does he think he is? This motif of Mark’s gospel, namely, the question about the identity of Jesus is brought out clearly in our passage from today. They recognize he has wisdom and is doing deeds of power throughout the Galilean region, but they do not know why. They fail to recognize that he is the messiah: A prophet is not welcome in his home town.

This rejection of the message of Jesus is the prelude to his calling together of the group of the twelve to move through the other Galilean villages to teach. They are to go “two by two” and they will be given authority by Jesus over unclean spirits. In other words, the apostles will be those who are called together by Jesus to share in his mission of preaching the kingdom of God. This prophetic teaching is to be characterized by a total reliance on the power of God to work through those who are called to preach. Such reliance is exhibited by the fact that they are not to take anything with them on this journey through the villages, no bread, no bag, no money. They are to be completely dependent upon God, a dependence which St Paul speaks of in his letter to the Corinthians as an experience of weakness so that that the strength of God may be displayed.

Reading our passage from Mark today in the context of these other passages, from the prophet Ezekiel and from St Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, it is clear that those who are called to this prophetic teaching are to preach about what they themselves have heard and experienced. So, in Ezekiel, we are presented with the spirit entering the prophet so that the prophet can speak in God’s name to the people of Israel, and in Second Corinthians, we are told of the “third heaven” that a person in Christ was lifted up into, as a prelude to the teaching which St Paul was engaged in. This is clearly parallel to St Paul’s own experience of being spoken to by God. Both examples illustrate that those called to teach in Jesus’s name are themselves to have been first formed by the experience of being taught by the Lord. The “disciple”, literally a “learner” or a “pupil”, is the one who sits at the feet of the master and breathes in their wisdom. This enables them to communicate this wisdom to others.
In our own case, as disciples of Jesus, this is a key point. In order that we too may be able to teach others, we need first to sit at the feet of Jesus and to learn from him. When we do this, then the teaching that we proclaim is not our own wisdom, but rather the wisdom of the Lord. It is for this reason that if those to whom we are sent do not listen to us, then we should simply move on. We should “shake the dust off our sandals” because this work is ultimately not our own work, but the work of God. God is the one who works through us to communicate the gospel, and our role is to be prepared to share it with others, but never to believe this depends completely on us.

The rejection in the synagogue of Jesus is a prophetic warning to the disciples that they should not expect otherwise. The disciple should not expect things to go well on this journey through the towns and villages. The message of Jesus was rejected by his own. However, this rejection opens up new pathways. It opens up the possibility of the disciples moving through other towns and villages because the message will be recognized by those who are apparently outside of the community. So, perhaps rather than going home, Jesus is really beginning a process in St Mark’s gospel of re-defining what home really is for the disciples. It is not simply those with whom we are familiar, but rather those who recognize the power and authority of God in their lives.

Eliciting this recognition in a person is what the work of the prophet is really oriented towards. The prophet is the one who speaks in God’s name about what they themselves have heard so as to remind or recall the listener to fidelity. Just as with the prophet Ezekiel, who is speaking to the Jews at the end of the kingdom of Judah, the prophet opens out the possibility of the return to Jerusalem following a time of exile. The prophet may even open up a new possibility for the one who has never encountered the Lord in their lives. Whatever the case may be our own work as disciples of the Lord is to share in the prophetic ministry of Jesus as we go about the towns and villages of our lives.
So, as we gather together on this sixth Sunday after Trinity, let us learn from the Lord of his call to us through our reflections on his word and the gift of himself in the sacrament. May this time in which we too are gathered together like those early disciples enable us to be more effective teachers of the faith, charged with the mission of communicating to others the prophetic words of the Lord that his kingdom is truly at hand amongst us.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.