Overcoming the pain of rejection

7 July, 2024 14th Sunday Year B

The three main characters in this week’s readings suffer rejection and humiliation. Their pain is summarised in the Psalm: “Indeed, all too full is our soul with the scorn of the rich, with the proud man’s disdain.”


Sometimes, following God means being a witness to people who do not respect us or our faith. As the prophet Ezekiel hears in the first reading, the task of the faithful disciple is to keep witnessing to our faith, “whether they listen or not”. 


In the second reading, St Paul explains how he perseveres when he is confronted with rejection and humiliation. Paul’s second letter to the Church in Corinth was motivated by a vicious attack on his ministry and reputation. Some within the community, who styled themselves as ‘superapostles’, disparaged Paul and his teaching. Instead, they boasted about the incredible visions and secret knowledge they had received, which proved their superiority over Paul.


Instead of trying to compete with his rivals’ boasting, Paul brags about his own weaknesses and failures. Paul does not go into detail about what he means by the “thorn in his flesh.” Theories have included health difficulties, reoccurring temptations, or difficult people around him.


Struggles like these that seem to get in the way of us trying to live out his faith should be familiar to all of us. However, Paul explains that God sometimes allows these obstacles in our lives because our weaknesses make the grace and love of Jesus most evident.


Instead of succumbing to the temptation to boast about his accomplishments, Paul uses his weaknesses to constantly remind himself of his dependence on God’s power.


Through his weaknesses, Paul learns about the self-sacrificial kind of service that God desires. As a result, God’s presence and activity in Paul’s life are even more present because of the weakness that appears on the surface. Paul is a better witness of God’s power because he demonstrates with his life what Christ can do with any person in any situation. 


Jesus himself embraces this way of living in today’s gospel. Previous chapters of Mark’s Gospel make Jesus seem unstoppable. Disease, demons and even death all give way before him. However, Jesus’ mission appears to have stalled when he does not overcome Nazareth’s lack of faith.


Perhaps Jesus could have forcefully displayed his power when he returned to Nazareth and broken down the barriers of unbelief. But what is a faith in God that is based on overpowering, dominating, and controlling? It would eliminate the opportunity for people to encounter God’s love and mercy and for the spiritual change towards selfless love that God most desires.


Jesus most clearly proves that he is from God in his acceptance of suffering. His rejection by those closest to him is another step towards the cross, where he will demonstrate to the world and all history what God’s love truly means.


Our weaknesses can invite us to deepen our loving relationship with God and invite others to encounter Jesus. Let us always.


Joseph Doyle

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