“Do not be afraid!”
“Trust in the Lord!”
“Take heart! I have overcome the world”
We hear today of the challenges facing those who bring the Good News to the people; doing the good works of God and speaking God’s message of love and salvation for His children
God tells Ezekiel that he is sending him to prophecy among those who have rebelled against Him. The “Hard of face and obstinate of heart. . .” These are the ones who have completely rejected all that God has done for them. They have chosen to follow and worship gods of their own desires. God tells Ezekiel that whether they heed him or not, they are to know, by his presence, in the power and truth of God’s message: that a prophet, a messenger from God, has been among them.
Now, being a prophet of God was a challenging task, especially when God tells you that He is sending you among those who are set against Him. What we do not get in today’s reading is what God tells Ezekiel in the next line:
“But as for you, son of man, fear neither them nor their words when they contradict you and when you sit on scorpions. Neither fear their words nor dismay at their looks for they are a rebellious house.”
“When you sit on scorpions . . .” Wow! Fear not! Trust in the Lord!
God takes care of His children, his chosen ones – those who speak His Truth even when they fall among the scorpions in a rebellious world. Trust in God and be not afraid to speak the Truth even when we know the words we speak in His name will be despised, scorned and rejected. If we love the Lord, we cannot do otherwise, but speak His Truth.
Paul cries, “. . . a thorn in the flesh was given me and an angel of Satan, to beat me . . .” begging God to relieve him of these afflictions, as he was bringing Christ to the people.
Even this great Apostle to the Gentiles was afflicted with trials and challenges while doing the work of the Lord. An easy pathway of discipleship is not promised to God’s chosen ones. His grace and love is our only consolation in this world, giving us the courage and power to endure all things.
Paul was challenged by false prophets who sought to usurp and corrupt the Word of God to their own purposes, to their ways in the world. They tried to discredit Paul and sway people to turn away from his message of God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul’s lament points the people to Jesus and away from himself. It is in bringing the Truth of Jesus that gives Paul his strength, enabling him to endure all hardship, insults and persecutions, “for the sake of Christ.”
Even those who should have loved Jesus best, family, friends and hometown villagers, turned their back on him, questioning his word and the things that he had done, ‘healing the sick, raising the dead, giving sight to the blind and curing the deaf and the lame’. Among his own people he was not able to do any of these things, except for a curing a few sick people – most likely visitors from out of town.
His own people failed to see the Truth of Jesus’ words. They were blinded by their preconceptions of the Jesus whom they thought they knew so well. Can you not hear them saying, ‘I know Jesus. I helped his Mother change his nappy!’ or ‘Isn’t that the kid who was always wandering off, worrying his parents to no end?’
- How many of us have had this similar experience among our own family and friends?
- How many of us have known someone who became famous before they achieved their fame? What did we say or think about them?
So, even Jesus was challenged to bringing His message of God’s love and salvation to the people. His message fell on deaf ears and was outright rejected as being too hard to follow. As Christians, as witnesses of the Truth of God’s love for the world, as evangelizers of the Word of God – Take heart! Be not afraid!
The love of Christ impels us to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit . . .” But, we say, ‘How can we do this - these are challenging times, this is an increasingly hostile world!’
Not more so than the times faced by Ezekiel or by Paul or by any others who speak God’s Truth to the world. And we have courage in Christ Jesus, who loves us so much that He overcame the world through His death on the cross.
Jesus has not, nor will he ever, abandon us, for He continues His challenge of evangelizing the world with these words of encouragement and consolation, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Amen.