Listening to God requires not only an open mind, but also an open heart. That is the theme for the following Lectionary readings. The readings begin with God sending Ezekiel to the Israelites, knowing that the people are “hard of face and obstinate of heart” (Ezekiel 2:4) and may not listen. Listening is the human response for God’s patience.
Recognizing human frailties, Psalm 123:2 proclaims that the Faithful are paying close attention, like the attention a slave (the Lectionary uses the words servants and maid) pays toward its master. 2 Corinthians portrays Paul finding strength in his apparent weakness. Finally, in the Gospel, the people in his hometown reject Jesus and will not listen to him.
These readings join love, which means opening the heart enough to listen to the truth, with the larger theme throughout the Sundays about prioritizing truth over politics. Opening the heart enough to listen to the truth, in turn, means willingness to change how one habitually does things. Explicitly linking love with truth is a new element in these Personal Notes.
A translation note: The Hebrew for Ezekiel 2:2, “this very day” is an idiom, also used in Genesis 7:13, namely, “bone of the day.” Fortunately, the King James Bible got this one correct. The Lectionary also has it correct.
In Ezekiel 2:4, God describes the Israelites as “hard of face and obstinate of heart.” That does not mean, however, that the Israelites are bound to resist Ezekiel. The Israelites may heed Ezekiel. God goes on, “And whether they heed or resist…they shall know that a prophet has been among them.” God could be difficult, but at this stage of his relationship with humanity, he is not. That is the very sense of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a prophet among the people.
Psalm 123:2 has “as the eyes of servants are on the hands of their masters,” meaning that the Faithful are listening. Psalm 123:3-4 goes on to describe the life of a slave. “We are more than sated with contempt…with the mockery of the arrogant, with the contempt of the proud.” Psalm 123 is one of the communal laments. Psalm 123 means that the Faithful are willing to change their ways.
2 Corinthians 12:9 and 10 are about loving to the
point that one is willing to change habitual ways of dealing with people. Saint Paul started out with tremendous power,
being able to put Christians to death. However,
in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, after the Corinthians hurt
Children beginning non-Catholic Sunday School learn the following 1860 hymn, evidently based on Ephesians 3:17-19, rather than 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
For the Bible tells me so:
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak, but He is strong.
The Bible tells me so.
The Lectionary uses Ephesians 3:17-19 at reading 171B, “Friday after the Second Sunday after Pentecost: The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Since the Lectionary does not use Ephesians 3:17-19 on any Sunday, this Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time becomes a worthy option. Ephesians 3:17-19 does not contain the contrast between weak and strong that both the hymn and 2 Corinthians 9:10 do.
I always find the thorn in the flesh mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:7 interesting. The Greek, in its broadest sense, means anything pointed, metaphorically a thorn, a plague. A footnote in the New Jerusalem elaborates. “Perhaps a disease with severe and unforeseeable attacks; perhaps the resistance of Israel, Paul’s brothers by physical descent, to the Christian faith.” Douay-Rheims uses sting, rather than thorn. A thorn in the flesh is worse than a cut, because a thorn in the flesh is a puncture, which often resists healing as it causes infection. Paul means that he has his own troubles and, therefore, is approaching the Corinthians with as much humility as he can muster. That notwithstanding, Paul realizes that he is special as were the Corinthians then and the Faithful to the present.
The Greek derivation for the Lectionary abundance of the revelation (2 Corinthians 12:7) is hyperbole. In English, hyperbole means extravagant exaggeration. Paul was a mystic. Paul had visions, an abundance of revelations.
2 Corinthians 12:7
Lectionary (1998): abundance of the revelations
The Vulgate (circa 410): magnitudine revelationum
Douay-Rheims (1582-1610): greatness of the revelations
New American (1970): abundance of the revelations
New Jerusalem (1985): the exceptional greatness of the revelations (verse 6)
The earlier translations stressed the quantity of revelations, the later translations the quality. Saint Paul himself is a mystery and I leave it there. 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 obliquely refers to a man who ascended to the third heaven.
Changing focus to the Gospel reading, when
Jesus has a human reaction, “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:6). Mark 6:4, “a prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house” is a reminder of Ezekiel 2:4, “hard of face and obstinate of heart.” Nazareth was only one of several places including Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matt 11:21) where the preaching of Jesus was rejected.
This spirit of love and openness to truth, despite
weakness, causes me to address the “brother of
Trying to figure out who Mary of Clopas (
The Evangelists are not always consistent. That Joseph was an artisan is not an article of dogma. That not withstanding, while Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 do note that Joseph was a carpenter, Luke 4:22 does not. Love, open to truth, as a habit, is always appropriate for the spiritual life. That is why these Notes consider the issues, however inadequately. As Vatican II demonstrated, the Church itself sometimes condemns a theologian, before it adopts what it first condemned. That openness to change is love at work.
In conclusion, love relates to truth by listening with an open heart and by leaving the heart open to changing habitual ways of understanding. Through Ezekiel, God tells the Israelites that they will know a prophet has been among them, whether they listen or not. Psalm 123 assures God that the Faithful are listening and are willing to change their ways.
The meaning of these readings is that at least a modicum of love opens up truth in the first place. After that, within a context of prudence, more love enables the listener to change his ways. Ultimately, listening and loving are habitual, enabling the Faithful to prioritize truth over politics as an act of love.
For more on sources see the Appendix file. Personal Notes are on the web site at www.western-civilization.com/CBQ/Personal%20Notes
Alister McGrath, In the
Words written by
The Holy Bible:
Translated from the Latin Vulgate and diligently compared with the Hebrew,
Greek and other editions in divers languages (The Old Testament, First
published by the English College at Douay, A.D. 1609 and The New Testament was
first published by the English College at Rheims, A.D. 1582) With notes by
Bishop Challoner and also The Encyclical Letter “On the Study of the Holy
Scriptures.” By Pope
“Some Doctrinal Variants in