Homily - Faith - 14th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B

Homily and Podcast preached on Sunday 8th July 2012 (14th Sunday OT Year B)

First Ezekiel 2:2-5
Psalm Psalm 122
Second 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Gospel Mark 6:1-6
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.] 

This homily and readings are available as a Podcast at the iTunes store.
Or you can listen to it now by clicking here.

Faith, Weakness and God's Strength

During the winter we often have an open fire at home. It's wonderful sitting in front of it watching the flames dance and feeling the warmth on your face. To get the fire started I use a layer of screwed up newspaper, on top of that a layer of kindling, often twigs gathered from the garden over the summer, finally on top of that coal or logs. If everything is dry a single match will have the fire burning well in a few minutes, but if the matches, paper or twigs are damp it's really difficult to get a good fire started.

Flames are often used as an analogy of faith. They provide light and heat, and they spread quickly. Faith leading to good works provides light and hope and it leads to that faith spreading and growing quickly. However, scepticism like we hear about in today’s Gospel acts just like dampness, stopping the spread of faith and the effect of the good works.

After leaving home to start his ministry Jesus toured the towns and villages of Israel, we hear today what happened when he returned home to bring the good news he was preaching to his home town. The people who knew him as he grew up couldn't see passed the man he was to His divine nature. How could a common man, a man like them, perform miracles and preach with authority. They refused to believe in the Son of Man, they refused to believe in the Son of the living God. All they could see and hear was the carpenter, Mary's son.

What surprised me was Jesus' reaction. He didn't prove himself with big miracles. No walking on water or feeding thousands here. He taught them as he taught everywhere else, and they were amazed as they were everywhere else but because they knew him they couldn't find the faith to believe he was sent from God. Their human good sense, the common sense of the town got in the way. It got their faith damp and stopped the fire of that faith blazing in their hearts.

Without faith, there was no room for God and no room for miracles. When we rely on ourselves, our judgements, our skills, our strengths and our common sense we limit Gods presence in our live. We can set limits on God, just as the people of Nazareth set limits on Jesus, “Jesus can't be from God we know he is Mary's son”.

Our human strengths can be our spiritual weaknesses, a strong man has no need of God to help him complete his daily work. A clever man has no need of God to help him solve a problem. A man filled with societies wisdom doesn't need to turn to God to understand the way the world works. The problem is if we don't turn to God for help with our daily work, help with the problems that face us and help dealing with the world around us, then our actions will amount to nothing. We may do well financially, we may be popular, but we will have missed our chance to be part of Gods plan, missed our chance to help forward his kingdom on earth.

This isn't a new problem, St Paul is describing exactly the same problem that effected him 2000 years ago. Paul was a clever and connected man, an educated Roman, able to rely on his own skills, abilities and contacts. When Paul started to follow Christ, after his encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus, he was blessed with weakness. Paul needed God in everything he did, and therefore looked on all his weaknesses as opportunities to let God into his life, his work and his mission. As a result of this today, we can reap the long term benefits of the work Paul did in his weakness with God as his strength.

We need to treasure our faith. It won't matter how well I preach today if I didn't prepare in faith, and it won't matter how attentively you listen if you don't listen with faith. If faith is the foundation of all our actions then Christ Himself becomes the foundation, the cornerstone of all our actions. Faith will grow, hope and light will flow from our actions. We will bring Christ's kingdom, we will bring Heaven here to earth.

Our scriptural lesson for today is beautifully summarised in the Psalm. Our eyes, like those of the servants we are, should always be on the hand of our master, waiting to see what He need us and wants us to do. We need His mercy, his grace, his forgiveness, because all to often we are full of contempt, our souls full of greed and pride.

We need to turn to God in weakness, and in faith. That's where faith, even small, questioning, unsure, unconvinced, confused faith begins to kindle the fire. And faith turned toward God will kindle quickly and spread just as flames through dry paper and twigs.

Addition Reading and listening
You may also be interested in my Thought for the Day about Weakness and Strength.
Please click here for an Index of all my homilies and notes.

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