Our Theme for this week tells us that “we have received the mission of bearing the word of the Lord to others.” But we can only bring to others what we have first received ourselves. This is why the Theme exhorts us to open our hearts to God’s powerful grace working in our weakness. We must open ourselves to hear his word, and allow it to take deep root in us, so that it can grow and bear fruit which we can share with others.
It is vital to keep always in mind that we receive God’s word. It is his word, not our word. We are not in control of it. We do not create it. We do not take it or own it. We cannot change it to suit our desires or expectations. We do not decide what it says. We receive it.
This is why Pope Francis, in today’s Spiritual Reflection, tells us, “Today, the Lord asks us to adopt an attitude of humble listening and docile expectation because God’s grace often manifests itself in surprising ways that do not match our expectations…. God does not conform to human prejudices. We must make an effort to open our heart and mind to welcome the divine reality which comes to encounter us. It is a case of having faith: lack of faith is an obstacle to God’s grace.”
In the first reading, God tells Ezekiel that he is sending him to speak to the Israelites, whom he describes as “rebels.” He says they are “hard of face and obstinate of heart.” They are not open to hearing God’s word. They have already decided for themselves how they want to live and act, and they are not willing to follow God’s ways. In the words of the Psalm, they are “arrogant” and “proud.”
Sadly, the people of Nazareth to whom Jesus speaks in the Gospel seem to be afflicted with the same spiritual sickness: hardness of heart. Even though they acknowledge the wisdom with which he speaks, and the powerful deeds which he works, they refuse to consider that God could be working through someone whom they have known. They take offense at him! We should see that, in doing so, they are taking offense at God himself. They do not approve of the way in which God has chosen to act. It does not meet their expectations. And the result is that Jesus is not able to do much for them, because of their lack of faith.
In the second reading, St. Paul shows us the fruitful way to relate to God’s word. He boasts of his weakness, for he knows that it is in his weakness that Christ can be strong in him. We can better understand this seeming paradox if we consider our relationship with God. As we relate to God, who is the strong one and who is the weak one? Who is the master and who is the servant? Who is the one who knows all things, and who is the one with very limited understanding and knowledge? Obviously, in this relationship, we are the ones who are weak and limited. We are the servants. Yet when we insist that God must work in the way that we expect or demand, we are attempting to make ourselves the masters. We are trying to approach God from a position of strength, expecting him to follow our word. Clearly this kind of arrogance and pride is a rejection of reality and can never provide a place in which God can freely work.
The Psalm gives us two good examples of how to relate to God in such a way that he can work powerfully in our lives. We are to be like “servants,” who keep their eyes fixed on the hands of their master, or like a “maid,” who keeps her eyes on the hands of her mistress. The servants and the maid know that they are not the ones who give directions. They are attentive to every signal given by the hand of the master or mistress. They wait to be given the direction, and then they act upon it. This is the kind of “weakness” – we may also call it humility – which allows the Lord to work wonders in and through us.
We do well, then, to follow the lead which Pope Francis gives us at the end of the Spiritual Reflection: “Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, let us ask the Lord to melt the hardness of hearts and the narrowness of minds so that we can be open to his grace, to his truth and to his mission of goodness and mercy which is addressed to all, with no exception.”
Am I allowing the Word to bear fruit in me so I can share it with others? Am I infected with the spiritual sickness of hardness of heart? Like the “servant” or the “maid,” do I always keep my eyes fixed on the hands of my Lord?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.