Sometimes when we really live our faith, friends and neighbors feel uncomfortable. Then we, too, feel uncomfortable. They need to get over it, as do we. God didn’t call us to a comfortable, cozy way of living, but to a life of faithfully bearing witness to Him.
This is illustrated in the first reading for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, from the prophet Ezekiel. He heard the Lord speaking to him, “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day. Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you.”
To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Ezekiel isn’t carrying forward his own grandiose idea. He is sent to help call the Israelites back to God, who gives Ezekiel the power to speak to the rebellious. Ezekiel knows that God isn’t calling him to be successful, only faithful. The real power will be in the words God gives, not in Ezekiel’s personal persuasive skills.
God says, “But you shall say to them: ‘Thus says the Lord God!’ And whether they heed or resist — for they are a rebellious house — they shall know that a prophet has been among them.” Once Ezekiel speaks forth the word of God, the Israelites will know that God has found them out and calls them back to Himself. Their response to God’s word will determine either their salvation, or their rejection of God.
In the second reading, St. Paul details the price of faithfulness. “That I, Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’”
Paul’s fidelity to preaching the Gospel opened his heart to many spiritual gifts, which converted large numbers of people. However, with these revelations came the temptation to pride — to take credit himself for what was happening in his life. God protected him from pride by allowing the harassment of Satan as to keep Paul humble.
When Paul complained to God and asked for relief, God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” In other words God says, “Keep up what you are doing. You are glorifying me by your faithfulness.
Paul then says, “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Sufferings that release God’s graces in our lives are truly blessings. Therefore, when sufferings come our way, we need to do what Paul did. We need the gift of discernment. We need to ask God, “Is my suffering my own doing, seeking to do my own will, or is this suffering meant for my purification and enrichment?”
Quiet time spent in discernment is so important and powerful. Will I be at peace in the midst of this suffering, or is this suffering self-induced by my own rebellious and proud nature? Quiet prayer will reveal that to me.
It may be that the Lord will reveal to me that this is the evil one attacking me, to stop giving witness to Jesus by my good deeds and intercessory prayer. If I have a deep sense of peace inside that it is the evil one attacking me, I won’t back off, but I will go on the offensive and fight back the evil one.
As a beloved and baptized child of the Father, I have within me the power of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit. When I exercise this power to command the evil one to leave, Satan becomes afraid of me. I don’t need to be afraid of him.
In the Gospel, Jesus came into the synagogue in His own hometown and preached powerfully. The result is that they took offense at Him. He responded, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”
As we study Jesus in the rest of the Gospel, we realize that He didn’t take offense at them but continued to work at evangelizing them, forgiving them and healing their sick. Even in His passion, when He took on the sins of every individual who ever lived, and whoever was yet to be born, He didn’t vent or give into anger. He embraced the anger, absorbed its terrible pain and returned love. That is salvation.
How many parents today are confronted by the rejection of their children who have drifted away from the faith, if ever they even had faith? Such parents have incredible power in responding lovingly. They aren’t to condone what their children are doing. Neither are they to condemn them, but to witness to them in hope and in love.
Always remember, the love of God in you as parents is greater than the evil one working to mislead your children. Your faith and your faithfulness will overcome the work of the evil one in your children’s lives. You have aligned yourself with the Greater Power. Stand with God, and He will stand with you against the evil one harassing your children.