4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

There are truths we want to hear, such as “You are beautiful.” There are truths we do not want to hear, such as “You have bad breath.” Sometimes the truth may be so painful that we deny the truth or we procrastinate and delay facing it. A student who took a board examination for his profession was afraid to look at the newspapers on the day the test results were published. He was afraid to know that he failed the examination. The truth hurts.

Even if the truth hurts, it has to be told. Somebody has to tell the truth. This is the role of prophets. The prophets are truthtellers. From its Greek root words, a prophet is one who speaks before another or for another. In the scriptures, a prophet is one who speaks for God. It is a task that the prophets do not volunteer for. Knowing how unpopular the task is, many prophets hesitate before answering the call to be God’s spokesman. The first reading this Sunday tells of this difficulty. Ezekiel was chosen to be God’s prophet and he was warned about the people to whom he was being sent, “Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you (Ez. 2, 2-5).”

Until now, the classrooms are overcrowded. If there are no prophets, who will tell the truth?

The prophet does not rely on his own intellect, or popularity or other resources. The prophet only relies on the truth of the word of God. The kings were more powerful than the prophets. They had their armies and they had the power of life and death. Yet, many kings were afraid to be confronted by a single prophet. It took a prophet Nathan to make David aware of his sin, “ Why have you spurned the Lord and done evil in his sight? You have cut down Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you took his wife as your own, and him you killed with the sword of the Ammonites. (2 Sam. 12:9).

Rightly, the Apostle Paul relies not on his strength but on the strength of the Lord, “And so I willingly boast of my own weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ, may rest upon me….for when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong. (2 Cor. 12, 9- 10).

The difficult life of the prophet is shown by this well-known saying from today’s Gospel, “No prophet is without honor except in his native place, among his own kindred, and in his own house (Mk. 6, 4).” Jesus had difficulty teaching in his own place. He had to deal with the fact that he was known to his relatives as a carpenter, rather than a preacher or a prophet. He had to hurdle the stumbling block of familiarity. As one doctor who practiced in his town said, “It is hard to treat a patient who spanked you when you were a little boy.” They think they know more about their illness than the doctor.

Whatever the difficulty, we need prophets in our midst. We need truthtellers. We need people who will speak the truth even when it is painful. In the scriptures, the false prophets were those who spoke what people wanted to hear. What are some truths that seem to be hard to accept today? In my country, a cabinet official was reprimanded for telling the truth about the lack of classrooms for the public school pupils. There are seventy to eighty pupils in one classroom . She was told by no less than the president that there was no problem. All the department had to do was to declare double sessions. One group of pupils hold classes in the morning. The next group hold classes in the afternoon. That ought to solve the classroom shortage. The cabinet official changed her statistics and declared the problem was not that bad.

Action starter: What is the truth that stares you in the face and yet you deny?