Ezekiel 2: 2-5; II Cor 12: 7-10; Mark 6: 1-6
If you didn’t know, the Dali Lama celebrated his 83rd birthday this past week. 83 and still going strong, traveling around the globe. He may be one the of the last larger than life wisdom figures out there these days and still one of the great prophetic voices going. One of his consistent themes is compassion. He says “compassion is the radicalism of our time”. One, it seems illogical to the mind to have compassion and radical in the same sentence, which is the point. Two, the fact that we as a human race have to be reminded of being compassionate says a lot about us, that we could forget something so simple.
Now, when he speaks of compassion he isn’t speaking as we often associate it. We have a tendency to make it into a pity party of sorts for people who have less than us, have it worse off than us, and really a sense of inferiority. That’s obviously not his point. He takes it from a more literal sense of being moved with passion to do something in the face of injustice, suffering, hurt and pain. He recognizes that there is no wall that separates us from the other, especially when it comes to injustice and suffering. It’s what makes his message so prophetic even to this day, a gentle message of compassion and love, radical for our time.
When we think of the prophetic voices, though, we often think of fire and brimstone, going out and beating the message over Israel, as we often hear in the first reading throughout the year. It’s as if they have to be the loudest voice heard and yet often gets drowned out by all the noise. It’s what the political and religious leaders often did. Fire and brimstone was a way of controlling the masses and invoking fear into the people they want to control. It’s not until Ezekiel, in this case, comes to a greater understanding of his own humanity through the Word that he begins to find that prophetic voice within and more often than not, the quietest of the voices speaking from the depths of his soul. It’s why it is so easily drowned out by all the noise and the false prophets of their time and ours.
It certainly doesn’t mean that somehow Israel changed all its ways and everything was great. Israel rarely changes despite being freed from slavery. They begin to feel entitled in that way and become hard of heart and a rebellious people as he tells us today. Like us, change is slow and happens one by one more than an entire nation. You’d think that Israel, of all, would know and understand the power of the Word. Ezekiel tells us today that it the very act of consuming the Word and being consumed by it when he can begin to be transformed by it and all that separates fall apart. It’s the religious and political leaders that want the division, not the God who sets them free. Yet, the noise gets to them. The fear gets to them. They gradually begin to give in and become hard of heart, obstinate, and unable to hear the prophetic voice. It gets drowned out. It’s not just them that are called to be the prophetic voice. It’s all of us. Everyone of us that comes to this font is baptized priest, prophet, and king. We only grow in that when we, like Ezekiel, consume and become consumed by the Word, moving us to this radical compassion towards a hurting humanity.
Paul runs into the same obstacle. He’s struggling with Corinth today as he often does because they too are becoming consumed by false prophets. His voice and message seems to be falling on deaf ears. They become convinced that they don’t need that message and over time they begin to exclude, separate, become us versus them, leave people out of the celebration of their Eucharist, and all the rest. Paul struggles greatly with them because he’s aware of all that they can be and yet they give in so easily to the noise of their time. Paul, like all the prophets, aware of their own humanity and consumed by the Word, find the quiet in their lives in order to allow that prophetic voice to grow within them. It never seems to overtake all the noise, but one by one people are moved to that compassion where walls no longer separate and we can see the other as ourselves, the other as Christ.
As we hear in the gospel today it was no different for the Word made Flesh. Jesus struggles upon returning home today where they too had become hardened and jaded. All they could see and hear are their own expectations of who he is, which of course is less than he really is. They get caught up in the chatter and the noise of their own making and the word gets lost. They consume the noise rather than the Word. The crazy thing is that Jesus wasn’t even doing anything magical or even spectacular. He, as we often hear, is moved to compassion for the poor, the marginalized, the outcast, the one who has been pushed aside and considered outside the community. They quickly take offense. It pushes up against the noise and all that they had come to believe through the fire and brimstone, the voices yelling at them in their own time.
The readings challenge us this week to quiet ourselves from all the noise. We have the noise coming from the media, the politicians, twitter, and all the rest claiming to be the one. Yet, over and over they prove to be the false prophets, using that message for their own gain. When we learn to quiet ourselves and turn off the noise of our time, the voice of God begins to break through, as we consume the Word the Word consumes us. As with the great prophets, and the Dali Lama, we’re moved with compassion, literally moved with passion to do something, to act, to do what is right in the face of injustice, suffering, and hurt. Otherwise, we continue to buy into what is being sold, leading us further astray, more divided, and hard of heart. We pray for that quiet in our own lives and the reawakening of the prophetic voice within us, moving us to radical compassion.