Swimming Upstream ~ The Rev. Dcn. Igor Kalinski, OPI

From the Dominican Hermitage & Oratory of St’s Peregrine and Sebastian in Gevgelija, region Bojmia, Republic of Macedonia, Europe and Translated from the Bulgarian 14th Week in Ordinary Time

And today we are called with Jesus to go to our Nazareth, our home and homeland, among our relatives. And it is here that we are called to be heralds of the gospel. In us and through us – us as a community of believers called the Church and us as individuals in the Church – God wants to act among those who are “ours”, and in this sense “ours” are those who are close to us, they above all, but they are “ours” and the whole of humanity, as well as all created reality. And we are called by these “ours” to be witnesses of the gospel of God’s love revealed to us in Jesus of Nazareth. It is important, however, that in fulfilling this mission of ours, we do not allow our time and our Nazareth to captivate us with their mentality in their mediocrity, but we need to be, even at the cost of non-acceptance and rejection, different. In this being different we must pay particular attention to two dangers that we can easily run into. The first danger is the fear of failure, of being different and of not being accepted because we are different. This is a problem faced by many, especially young Christians. Being a Christian in an authentic way – not in the way of that soothing Nazarene habit in which Jesus could do nothing and comparable to unbelief – is something that is not worth much today, something that many would rather be ashamed of their being Christians than something they are proud of. It is this fear that hinders and disables being what we are called to be. To resist this danger of fear, which we might call the fear of regard for those to whom we are sent, today’s liturgy with Ezekiel confronts us with what awaits us, but at the same time makes us aware that we have not chosen ourselves for the mission we have. The prophet never sends himself. The prophet is always sent by God: “Son of man, I send you to the rebellious people who have turned away from me. … I send you to your sons with stubborn looks and hardened hearts. And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Whether they will hear, or whether they will hear, whether they be rebellious or not, let them know that the prophet is among them. The second danger is arrogance because we are different, because we have not allowed ourselves to be overtaken by the current and carried where it carries all others, but like Jesus we swim upstream, the opposite of most. Pride prevents us from seeing Jesus as he truly is and from creating our own image of Jesus. And then it happens that, thinking we know him, we don’t actually recognize him at all. And instead of witnessing it to others, we become an obstacle to others meeting it. That is why Jesus is not and cannot be in pride. Jesus is present in humility. And only the humble can witness it. In order to protect us from pride, God helped us with St. Paul gave “a thorn in the flesh.” I do not know what that thorn was in the case of St. Paul. Perhaps it was this same thorn that exists in our case, and it is today the mentality of the society and time in which we live and which it does not consider to be Christ’s and with Christ desirable, but backward. But let’s not be afraid of that thorn. With him always comes from the Lord his “grace because strength is perfected in weakness.” Thanks to this we can discover experientially that true strength is not in strength, but that true strength is in weakness, that is, that the words are truly true: “For when I’m weak, then I’m strong. ” If we manage to resist these two temptations, the temptations of fear, and the temptations of pride, we will be able to continue our Christian witness despite all adversities. And to show everyone that God continues today to speak and act in what people least seek and see in him, in ordinary people, events, phenomena, but also in us if we live our daily lives simply and Christian consistently. And Jesus Christ will not then come and go unnoticed and with regret need to reaffirm: “He is not a prophet without honor except in his homeland, among his relatives and in his home.” We will then not be just his homeland, relatives and home. We will then be Himself, Jesus Christ, His living presence for all those with whom we live and to whom He sends us.